Quietus: the vessel, death and the human body is a major solo exhibition of ceramic work by the celebrated artist, Julian Stair, addressing the containment of the human body in death.
The exhibition, on show at Londons Somerset House
from 4 December 2013 26 January 2014, will be on display in the atmospheric subterranean venues of the Lightwell and Deadhouse in the South Wing. It features a series of artist-made funerary works, from cinerary jars to life-size sarcophagi, drawing upon the symbolic language of ceramic vessels and offering an alternative means of engaging with this challenging subject.
Stair is a potter and writer who specialises in commissions and site-specific installations. His work is well known for its subtle palette of greys, reds and white, as well as its variety of scale - from domestic to monumental. At the core of Stairs practice is the belief that pottery, as one of the oldest mediums, can encapsulate the most complex of ideas, through elegant simplicity.
For Stair, this exhibition has both a universal, and deeply personal significance. In one piece the ashes of a friends remains are incorporated into a single matt-white vessel, blending the core materials to create a bone-china that is speckled and unique. The metaphor of the vessel as body has been prominent throughout much of ceramic history, these containers of death and the deceased become a challenging, but ultimately uplifting way to engage with the emotionally charged issues of death, loss, and the life that precedes both.
Quietus will be on display at Somerset House from 4 December 2013 26 January 2014. A catalogue will accompany the exhibition.
Julian Stair was born in Bristol in 1955 to a family of artists and writers. He took up pottery at 16 and went on to study at Camberwell School of Art and the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1981. During this time he was assistant to Scott Marshall in St Just, Cornwall, one of Bernard Leachs last apprentices. He has always balanced studio practice with writing and in 2002 completed a PhD researching the origins of studio pottery and its relationship to modernism, Critical Writing on English Studio Pottery: 1910 1940.
He is currently Principal Research Fellow at the University of Westminster and a co-investigator for the AHRC funded project Ceramics in the Expanded Field: Behind the Scenes in the Museum. He is also an artistic contributor to the HERA funded project, Creativity and Craft Production in Middle and Late Bronze Age Europe (CinBA). Julian has exhibited internationally over the last 30 years and has work in numerous public collections. In 2004 he was awarded the European Achievement Award by the World Crafts Council for his monumental work, first shown at the launch of Collect: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects held at the V&A. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts, and was Deputy Chair of the Crafts Council. He lives and works in South London.