3rd February 2017 - 4th March 2017

Popular Art and Craft Aligned

This, our first exhibition of 2017, is a vividly rich, exciting and thought provoking exhibition which celebrates the ‘popular’ in 20th and 21st Century Art. Focusing on the spheres of Pop Art and Contemporary Craft (in the form of Ceramics) it will consider why both art movements have, in their own way, been subject to misinterpretation and to designation as low art forms. It will offer a revised view of both artistic styles as important comments on popular interests, commercialization and the decline of traditional ways of making. In doing so, we aim to illustrate that Pop Art and Contemporary Ceramics, whilst aesthetically polar-opposites, both offer an important and legitimate means of producing art, Art which should be elevated to the realms of fine art and not belittled or labelled as anything other.

In a simultaneous attempt to rethink previous representations which muddy our appreciation of Craft in relation to the glamour of the Pop Art movement of the 1950's and onwards, this exhibition will showcase new ceramics by selected members of the Northern Potters Association, alongside prints from Pop Art superstars such as Sir Peter Blake, CBE, RA. In doing so, offering up an exhibition which pitches Pop Art and Craft on an even playing field. 

Celebrating 40 years of the Northern Potters Association we are delighted to be presenting new work by 10 artist-makers from the North: Alison Brayshaw, Barbara Wood, Bev Seth, Josie Walter, Michelle Freemantle, Penny Withers, Katie Braida, Charlotte Morrison and Harriet Mckenzie. Limited edition prints by the renowned Sir Peter Blake, produced in association with Enitharmon Press and in response to the well-known, if quirky, tale of Dylan Thomas' 'Under Milk Wood' will also be on show. Additional, and perhaps more traditionally 'Pop Art' prints by Eduardo Paolozzi, Robert Rauschenburg and others will also be on show.

Over the last few years, ceramics as an art form and an interest - both the making and collecting side of the subject - has become increasingly popular, gaining a new, diverse following. Whilst TV shows such as the Great Pottery Throw Down have served to bring the art form into the public realm, social platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest have also aided in creating an amplified presence on a global scale and amongst people from all generations.  Raised online presence aside, this renewed interest in ceramics and pottery might also be considered the early stages of a backlash against the mechanization, commercialization and digitization of 21st Century living. Either way it has certainly seen the elevation of Pottery & Ceramics alongside other forms of Craft, to the level of fine art and it is this that brings the subject into alignment with the work and thinking of the Pop Art movement. This international phenomenon associated with the post-war West, celebrated commonplace objects and people from everyday life. It began as a revolt against the dominant approaches to art and culture and traditional views on what art should be, instead adopting themes and imagery from Hollywood movies, advertising, product packaging, pop music and comic books. Critics were horrified by the pop artists’ use of such ‘low’ subject matter and by their apparently uncritical treatment of it but this phenomenon, like the resurgence in traditional craft and making techniques today, offered a strong case for the elimination of the idea of high vs. low in art, fine art vs. popular art or fine art vs. craft.

Considered by many as the Godfather of Pop Art, Sir Peter Blake, CBE, RA, is best known for co-creating the sleeve design for the Beatles’ album Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. Now in his 80’s Blake’s work still makes reference to British Popular Culture although increasingly his work alludes to the traditional, folkloric and the literary as well as those celebrated icons of the 21st Century. Internationally acclaimed for its eccentricity and widely admired for its lovelorn lyricism, Dylan Thomas’s groundbreaking 1954 ‘play for voices’, Under Milk Wood, is one such subject that has long echoed in the imagination of the artist. An obsession that has spanned almost thirty years, this ‘greenleaved sermon on the innocence of men’ has filled the spaces of Blake’s studio, played and replayed on broadcast recordings, and prompted several pilgrimages to Thomas’s creative refuge at Laugharne, Carmarthenshire. Produced in collaboration with Enitharmon Press, a selection of limited edition prints illustrating Thomas’s tale, will be shown in this exhibition.


For a full list of works available by Peter Blake, or any of the other artists in this show please contact the Gallery directly.

Featuring artists

  • Sir Peter Blake
  • Eduardo Paolozzi
  • The Northern Potters Association