Scale takes the form of an open-door residency and exhibition, presenting new work by Penny Withers, an artist exploring the material and conceptual potential of ceramics. The exhibition is part of Yorkshire Artspace’s Ways of Making, a programme that explores a variety of approaches to making and craft practices and our understanding of what they look like today.
Withers’s exhibition beautifully displays traditional ceramic wares on wooden shelving units, alongside more experimental approaches to understanding the material properties of clay and, more importantly, its relationship with the landscape. The title slips between associations of size and objects beyond our human scale, and also makes links to climbing and the way that vast swathes of people take to the surrounding hills to “scale” Peak District rock faces such as Stanage and Curbar Edge. One piece, for instance, consists of a series of ceramic layers that each have traces of holds that can be found on training walls for rock climbers. These ceramics tower over the viewer, leading them to question their own scale in relationship to the art object.
One of the more tranquil and unexpected works is titled Wabi Kusa and takes inspiration from the Japanese art form of the same name, by which people create small gardens at home or in the workplace aimed at encouraging enrichment and contemplation. Withers has formed the rocks in her garden from a single block of dry clay, positioning it under a slowly running tap over a long period, gradually creating rivulets and scoring the surface through a natural sculpting process.
In the entrance of the gallery is a piece called Levelling, in which clay pots sit in a bath of trickling water, slowly being pulled under the surface and returning to the bed in a stupor. This work emphasises the balancing relationship between human and landscape. It's something manipulated by hand and yet also fundamentally of the earth, and it forms a tranquil centrepiece that contextualises the exhibition perfectly.
One of the highlights of the Ways of Making series is the presence of the artists themselves within the exhibitions and what that offers audiences. Being able to approach the author of the work and to discuss the intricate conceptual and practical details of their practice demystifies the role of the artist and helps audiences to understand their important part in society.
Thursday 14th February 5pm-8pm, free – book now
Exhibition open Thursday 11am-7pm, Friday-Sunday 11am-4pm.
- Words by
- David McLeavy