Happenstance - Exhibition April 2010

Neil Brownsword UK & Karen Harsbo DK

Exhibition 9 – 30 April 2010

Ceramic in layers ... about materials and the time we live in.

Neil Brownsword and Karen Harsbo investigate how known ceramic methods and materials are treated differently to what tradition subscribes. When the known suddenly becomes different! What happens when 'things' are done to known materials in new ways? The exhibition project developed partly in their private practice and partly in collaboration at 'Experimental Workshops'.
The title 'Happenstance' (accident, chance, fluke, twist of fate...) sums up what they do physically and still gives breadth for other interpretations.

Neil Brownsword is an artist, senior lecturer and researcher at Buckinghamshire New University. His PhD thesis (completed in 2006) combined historical and archaeological research on ceramic production in North Staffordshire from the eighteenth century to the present; the film archiving of craft skills in the industry today; and the creation of a body of artwork in response to this research. The resultant ‘narrative’ sheds light upon Britain’s contemporary “post-industrial” experience as well as its industrial past.

Since graduating from the Royal College of Art in 1995, Brownsword’s work has gained both national and international acclaim, and is positioned at the forefront of experimental ceramic practice in Great Britain. It resides in eminent public and private collections worldwide, such as the Victoria & Albert Museum and Crafts Council, London and Fu Le International Ceramic Art Museum, China. He continues to engage in prestigious research residencies that include the European Ceramic Work Centre, Holland; International Ceramic Research Centre, Denmark; and recently Fu Le International Ceramic Art Museum in Shaanxi, China.

For nearly a decade, Neil Brownsword’s work has been a sustained mediation on the decline of British ceramic manufacture in his home town of Stoke-on-Trent - a first hand knowledge that has accrued since he was apprenticed at the age of 16, at the Josiah Wedgwood factory. Assuming the role of artist/archaeologist, Brownsword unearths/ salvages by-products from the histories ceramic production and regenerates these symbolically charged vestiges of labour into poetic abstract amalgams. Through its metaphoric exploration of absence, fragmentation and the discarded, his work signifies the inevitable effects of global capitalism which continue to disrupt indigenous skills and a heritage economy rooted in North Staffordshire for nearly three centuries.
In 2009 he won the One Off category at the British Ceramic Biennial, and continues to exhibit both nationally and internationally. www.galeriebesson.co.uk/brownsword

Karen Harsbo is an artist and head of the Laboratory for Ceramics at the Royal Danish Academy in Copenhagen. The Laboratory for Ceramics teaches and researches the use of ceramics in fine art. Karen Harsbo graduated from the Danish Designschool in Copenhagen. She has a wide experience in ceramic materials, she works and teaches many directions within ceramics. She has in her teaching practice emphasised an artistic approach to ceramics, historically and technically, and has run workshops for example 'The White Gold' with the Royal Copenhagen Porcelain, commission projects for murals at the Tommerup Teglvaerk, and research photo transfer for ceramics. In her own practice she exhibits and works with commission projects.

For this exhibition, her pieces have appeared from experiments with mixing and melting known ceramic materials such as glaze, plaster, porcelain. “What happen might be an accident or even a fault, but it opens up to a world of possibilities and creative potential, which could not be pre-perceived.”
Karen Harsbo: I was struck by something I heard, which I felt applied well to what I have been working on: "How knowledge travels from one material to another." Here my idea of knowledge is: knowledge and abilities embedded in the material; knowledge of how to handle and work the material; knowledge of history and culture of the material. www.kunstakademiet.dk/labs/keramik/