Grayson Perry and Edmund de Waal are not the only British potters. As this first solo exhibition proves, Claudia Clare is an inventive, accomplished, provocative artist who makes the ancient craft of ceramics contemporary and topical, wittily fusing medium, form and message.
Clare makes enormous, rather beautiful pots based on the shape of classical Mediterranean storage jars, then paints their surfaces with narratives, unfolding like friezes, that theatrically employ the curves and sweep of the fashioned clay. “Wedding Procession” depicts the 2011 royal wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton as a shared national drama and richly embroidered fairy tale, with sharply focused detail – clattering horses, red uniforms flashing, the sports car, leafy trees appearing to sway as they stretch to the rim of the pot – alternating with fantasies such as exotic birds rhyming with the guests’ feathered hats and fascinators.
The composition is full of paradoxes. The outermost curve provides a stage, separating stately actors above from spectators below, yet it is the forest of arms pointing camera phones that provides the source material for this compelling sequence of flickering, moving images – ephemeral and disposable, yet here fired into clay that lasts thousands of years.
Clare’s subjects are drawn from everyday and public life, which acquires in her treatment a classical monumentality and spectacle but is infused with humour, absurdity, sometimes horror. Three works reference Iranian society and culture: “How to Eat a Pomegranate” is painterly and lush; “Missing” and “Continuing Unsettled” intercut homely images with those of censorship and oppression. “Pageant”, a panorama of the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, makes a pair with “End of the Rainbow”, alluding to the City’s banking crisis, while “St Mark of the Farm” is a surprisingly lyrical evocation of the Tottenham funeral of Mark Duggan, whose shooting triggered the summer 2011 riots. This is history painting from a democratic viewpoint, in a domestic medium, which celebrates the hand-made material object as well as art’s political subversion: original and engaging.
From Wednesday to November 29, www.franciskylegallery.com