CONCORD, MASS.- Lucy Lacoste Gallery
starts the 2021 season with the esteemed British artist Ken Eastmans exhibition Border Country, created expressly for the Gallery. The work of this modernist master centers around the idea of the vessel. He uses the vessel as a subject, to give meaning and form to an expression. Working through the medium of ceramics, Eastman can be both builder and painter handling shape and structure, as well as exploring tone and color.
These latest multi-faceted pots were made from numerous slabs of clay, shaped and assembled in a spontaneous and intuitive way. This process meant that the forms couldnt be planned beyond loose ideas about scale, proportion and complexity. These vessels with their composition of broad, sweeping planes and layers of color can be seen as landscape, painting or sculpture. Lighting on these delineated sculptures emphasizes the planes and abstract composition.
The following is a catalogue essay for Ken Eastman: Border Country, written by Glenn Adamson, the curator and writer, who is currently senior scholar at the Yale Center for British Art:
The Border Country is where I live, and the border is something Im aware of and often cross. So says Ken Eastman, and the proof is in his work. His ceramics seem built from pure contradiction. Small enough to be set on plinths, they have the commanding presence of whole mountains. Their undulating volumes are formed of thin, flexible planes, yet one could not imagine anything more solid, or definite. And while that concreteness lends them an air of serenity, they also produce a completely contrary impression of vertiginous movement, of turning and tumbling, of sloping and sliding.
I think of Alison Britton, another master of muscular, wonderfully unpredictable, hand-built ceramics. Back in 1989, she wrote of an Eastman pot: Its pleasures are abstract, it provides a place for the eye to wander in. That reminds me in turn of another British artist, William Hogarth, writing in his Analysis of Beauty (1753) of compositions that lead the eye a wanton kind of chase. Other connections come to mind, too: the sculpture of Barbara Hepworth, the architecture of Frank Gehry, the choreography of Martha Graham, the tailoring of Cristobal Balenciaga. All these figures share Eastmans particular form of genius, to pitch a curve in space just so, and meet it with another, and another, and another, each shape compounding the intelligence of the whole.
Yet Eastman has something going for him that none of these others do (Britton excepted, of course): the affordances of pottery. Uniquely among art forms, it allows for a dialogue between inside and out. The relationship between a vessels interior and its exterior topologies has no exact parallel: it is not simply a repetition, nor a mirroring, nor a molding, but its own special kind of counterpoint. In Eastmans work, that primary dialectic is echoed in a perpetual series of unfurlings, the pot in constant dialogue with itself.
Over the past few years, in the UK and the USA alike, debates over the meanings of borders have raged. Are they necessary protective barriers, delineations of identity? Or should we see them as acts of violence, cutting across the human fabric? Eastmans work exists beyond such stark opposition; every one of his edges is also a threshold. At a time like now, its helpful to have his objects to think with.
Glenn Adamson January 2021
Ken Eastman was born in 1960, studied at Edinburgh College of Art (1979-83) and at the Royal College of Art, London (1984-87). He exhibits widely and has won numerous awards in the field of the ceramic arts, including the Premio Faenza, Italy in 1995, the Gold Medal at the 1st World Ceramic Biennale, 2001, Korea and Bronze Medal at the 5th World Ceramic Biennale, 2009, Korea, the Primer Premio at the 8thInternacional Biennal de Ceramica de Marratxi, Majorca, Spain in 2016 and the Primer Premio at the 8thInternacional Bienal de Ceramica, Talavera de la Reina, Spain in 2017.
Eastmans work is held in leading international public collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, London; The Shigaraki Ceramic Cultural Park, Japan; The Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Australia; The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA; The Gardiner Museum, Toronto, Canada; Museum Boijmans van Beuningen, Rotterdam, Netherlands; Landesmuseum, Stuttgart; The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, UK; Museu de Ceramica de Manises, Valencia, Spain and the Musee des Arts Decoratifs de Montreal, Canada.