YORK ceramist Ben Arnup opens the Christmas Collection exhibition at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, tomorrow at 11am.
On show until January 20 will be new work comprising 24 small and medium pots that feature trompe l’oeil effects with his flattened box forms and a new departure in his style wih vase and beaker forms.
“Collectors of his work will be surprised to hear that an eminent ceramic artist who has built his career on the basis of trying to trick the eye has this year progressed into the realm of vessels that are not compressed to an almost flat form,” says Pyramid Gallery curator and owner Terry Brett.
“But they will also be pleased that nothing in Arnup’s world is regular and that each vessel here in this show succeeds in being slightly eccentric.
“Ben has always experimented with surface decoration, using micro-thin layers of coloured clay to create a marble effect or applying textured coloured slips to differentiate different sides to a cube. The new work incorporates both of these techniques to pleasing effect.”
Arnup’s interest in ceramics started at home. Blessed with a sculptor and a potter as parents, he grew up learning ceramics skills and technology.
Originally trained as a landscape architect, he worked in the industry until 1984 when he returned to making pots, heavily influenced by the design process. Previously working in Ross Moor and with his father near Holtby, he now lives and works in York.
From the beginning of his career as a potter, his pieces were always shallow, with trompe l’oeil illusions. For the first 15 years, his work was high-fired stoneware in an oil reduction kiln; now this fellow of the Craft Potters Association fires to an oxidised stoneware in an electric kiln to achieve cleaner, brighter colours.
“In order to create a colourful fluid field for the trompe l’oeil image I laminate a porcelain veneer onto a stronger clay body,” he says. “The drawn illusion is complemented by the colourful rhythm in the base clay.
“The pots are an exploration of the way we see. The onlooker will be well aware of the frail illusion and the contradiction between what is suggested and what is tangible. I like to play a game: setting the prosaic nature of clay against the unlikely structures of the drawings.”
Arnup will be at Pyramid Gallery between 11 am and 2.30pm tomorrow to greet collectors and explain his making methods and inspirations for the work. Wine and refreshments will be served.
On the walls are paintings by York artist Mick Leach and work by Scottish artists Ian MacIntyre (paintings) and Hilke MacIntyre (ceramic reliefs and linocut prints), while an array of many different types of 3D art is provided by sculptor Jennie McCall, glass maker Catherine Shilling and potters Dylan Bowen and Katie Pruden.
As always, the window and cabinets on the ground floor are filled with hand-made jewellery by more than 50 British jewellery designer/makers.
Gallery opening hours are 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, and 11am to 4.30pm on Sundays. Much of the work can be seen and bought via the gallery website at pyramidgallery.com.