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National Treasure in Contemporary British Ceramics: Beneath the Surface

Brownsword, Neil (2021) National Treasure in Contemporary British Ceramics: Beneath the Surface. [Artefact]

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Dissemination context:
Contemporary British Ceramics: Beneath the Surface is a landmark exhibition that brings together the work of 21 leading ceramic artists. It offers a rare opportunity to see work by internationally respected makers alongside award-winning new talent. Produced to coincide with the important new book Contemporary British Ceramics: Beneath the Surface by Ashley Thorpe, this exhibition charts the rich diversity of contemporary ceramic practice in Britain.

Featured artists include: Alison Britton, Neil Brownsword, Connor Coulston, Ken Eastman, Tessa Eastman, Elena Gileva, Jennifer Lee, Sam Lucas, Nao Matsunaga, Carol McNicoll, Nathan Mullis, Aphra O’Connor, Benjamin Pearey, Henry Pim, Sara Radstone, Aneta Regel, Mella Shaw, Martin Smith, Pam Su, Annie Turner and Patricia Volk.

National Treasure (artefact)
National Treasure introduced new critical insights into aspects of skill displacement following the aftermath of decades of deindustrialisation in North Staffordshire’s ceramic sector. It examines shifts in production from the ‘shop floor’ to the factory tourism model, through an innovative combination of live performance, installation, social practice, film and artefact that ‘bring the traditions of the [ceramics] field into a new category of experience’. Brownsword’s parody of this ‘artisan on display’ format, critiques how the parade of ‘indigenous’ artisanal craft from the visitor centre experience, obscures the realities of profit first strategies of mass-automation and global outsourcing.

Ex-industry China painters were employed by Brownsword to follow the genre of the romantic ruin commonly depicted in 18th century British ceramics. Painting on the backs of discarded platters found at former historic sites of production, with images that documented Stoke-on-Trent’s post-industrial fallout offered a new perspective to social realism within ceramic practice. By incorporating the dynamics of hired labour, National Treasure offered an innovative method to elevate and disseminate the endangered practices of a rapidly disappearing culture of labour. The work also explored the ethical implications of appropriating people and their skill as a raw material – a subject relatively absent in contemporary ceramic practice.

Item Type: Artefact
Faculty: School of Digital, Technologies and Arts > Art and Design
Event Title: Contemporary British Ceramics: Beneath the Surface
Event Location: The Drawing Schools Gallery at Eton College, Common Lane Windsor SL4 6DU
Event Dates: 11 November - 5 December 2021
Depositing User: Neil BROWNSWORD
Date Deposited: 13 Jan 2022 14:29
Last Modified: 24 Feb 2023 14:02
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