New Ashgate Gallery champions the best of contemporary art and craft providing an unparalleled resource in Farnham, Surrey and beyond
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Originally from Wales, Gareth lives and works in Alton, Hampshire. He has exhibited his ceramics across the UK and internationally, and features in collections worldwide. A Fellow of the Craft Potters Association and Brother of the Art Workers Guild, London, Gareth now sends most of his work to America, where he is represented by the Jason Jaques Gallery in New York.
Clay is the ultimate abstract material – ubiquitous, adaptable and yet historically charged. Arguably humanity’s oldest medium, yet still a strange fledgling. It comes with baggage, which is fun, and can be whatever you want it to be, which is also fun. The fact that it is a wanton recipient of bodily energy appeals to the sensualist in me, and I exploit that quality to the full. It is a material of great emotive and allusive power. It is surface and form, paint and matter, mud and fire; it is the stuff of art and the stuff of life.
I have been looking and making for many years now. I have (inevitably) a substantial mental back-store, constantly augmented, of surfaces and shapes and artists and states and qualities...which I am inclined to draw upon intuitively nowadays, rather than engaging in any premeditated planning. This is a leap of faith, of sorts, but trusting that there is enough innate knowledge in my store of habits and actions to see me through usually pays off. The process takes on a momentum of its own, once begun. The challenge, as ever, is making a start. And then, of course, where to end. It is a bit of a roller coaster. I am still bound up in the powerfully allusive and evocative resonances of ceramic history, particularly of certain vessel archetypes; their strangely human content retains distinct potency, especially in this industrial age that has so homogenised the appetites and expectations of the average urban being. I am fuelled by (and drawn gravitationally toward) artistic practice of whatever discipline that involves risk and disclosure on the part of the artist, and prompts the viewer’s active agency. Aesthetic jeopardy is a strange thing to rely on, demanding a certain courage (albeit of a minor form on the scale of human bravery) but somehow it is a window on the inner passions and a conduit to more vivid, penetrative results. I proceed by means of intervention and reflection, really. The interventions can be pretty dramatic or very quiet. I allow materials their voice, and in letting them whisper or scream a little more freely, I augment my own. I am greedy. I am interested in the gamut of material quality, and the whole spectrum of human experience. Material and emotion are analogous. This fascinates me. Outcomes are inevitably pretty open ended nowadays. My whole understanding of ‘completion’ is in flux, which seems appropriate, because ‘flux’, fiery or otherwise, is a major force in what I do.
I approached the gallery in the mid ‘90s. After graduating, having completed four years as a technician and then a three year stint as production potter at the Farnham Pottery making terracotta gardenware, I became potter in residence at South Hill Park in Bracknell, Berkshire. It was here that I began to hone my work into an offering suitable for exhibition and the Ashgate, as my ‘local’ gallery, was a natural place to start. Trusteeship was suggested to me by the outgoing trustee Peter Parkinson, who works with metal. Representation from someone with craftsmanship perspective was desirable on the board, given the Gallery’s long and strong reputation for presenting quality three dimensional work, and I was a trustee in that capacity for about three years.
I have contributed to several group exhibitions over the years and find the interior space and atmosphere of the gallery intimate and inviting, which is useful, from a customer perspective, in that the space has a ‘domestic’ feel and scale, allowing visitors to more easily bridge what is often a yawning gulf between the potentially intimidating ‘white cube’ and their own interiors.
Gareth will be featuring in the New Ashgate’s 50 Years at Waggon Yard exhibition, 11 June – 23 July 2016, and will be giving a talk ahead of the Private View on 10 July.
The interview is based on personal communication between Gareth and Emily Cranny on 3 May 2016.
For more than 50 years, New Ashgate Gallery has supported artists and makers. It promotes and champions the best contemporary art and craft and provides an unparalleled resource in Farnham, Surrey and beyond. The Gallery curates an exciting programme of exhibitions in the market place and events for artists and the community.
Opening hours: Tue-Sat, 10am-5pm. Free admission. For more information, contact Dr Outi Remes, Gallery Director.