Hales Gallery is pleased to present Richard Slee's first solo exhibition at the gallery.
Slee is one of Britain's most important contemporary ceramic artists. His work attempts to challenge every conventional notion of that genre, transcending its utilitarian roots whilst also sidestepping the self indulgent aspects of the studio tradition which became ubiquitous in the late twentieth century.
In the past, Slee has messed with the cultural, historic and vernacular possibilities of the ceramic object, using puns, humour and his vast array of craft skills to transform the ordinary into the surprising.
For this exhibition Slee has focused on excessive ornamentation and has included several new and expansive installed works such as Ping Pong 2009/10, an extravagant work that presents the humble table tennis ball as a Baroque frippery and Scorpions 2009/10, a crazy menagerie of menacing insects made from casts of ornate picture frames.
Many of the works use utilitarian objects as a starting point but Slee renders the possibility of function as a distant memory, rather like the evolutionary remains of a tail. Usefulness is replaced by frills and curls. The Rococo staged gesture replaces any remaining vestiges of 'fitness for purpose', rendering the sculptures as parodies of themselves.
A massive china road hammer originally designed for levelling paving stones, an oversized junior hack saw, a selection of heavy toothed saws with ridiculously impractical handles and a glazed shovel with a curvy wasted blade. Unlike Duchamp's snow shovel of 1915 (in advance of a broken arm) Slee's version is only in part readymade. The handle from a real tool is fused with a carefully hand fashioned spade, thus emphasizing the incompatibility of both material and style.
'Paramount' 2010, another small sculpture in the exhibition is made from modelled picture frame corners using a shelf as a plinth. It resembles the blackened mountains of the Paramount pictures logo originally made in charcoal from a W.W Hodkinson drawing and used between 1923 and 1941. Whilst the work has the scale of a mantle piece ornament it has an element of comedic menace.
The show accompanies From Utility to Futility, Slee's solo presentation at the new ceramic galleries in London's Victoria and Albert museum. 5 June 2010 - 3 April 2011
Richard Slee's work is part of various collection including the British Council, Los Angeles County Musuem, Musuem of Arts and Design, New York, Museum of Modern Art, Kyoto, Japan, National Museum, Stockholm, Sweden, Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, USA, Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Japan, Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London