New Ashgate Gallery champions the best of contemporary art and craft providing an unparalleled resource in Farnham, Surrey and beyond
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Barry Stedman is a ceramic artist whose colourful, dynamic forms come out of a deep connection to the landscape. All the work, developed in series, is rooted in the directness and urgency of drawing outside; responding to the weather, drama and life which surrounds his garden studio by the river Flit in Bedford.
Starting on the wheel or constructed in slabs, the earthenware vessels are cut open and altered, scored and handled, before being glazed with layers of oxide, slip and washes of vivid colour. The vessels are then offered to the kiln, sometimes in multiple firings, in an open dialogue of transformation; infused with the marks, rhythm and energy of their making.
Stedman came to ceramics after a career in retail when he was seduced by the possibilities of clay to express abstract ideas of colour and form. He completed a Ceramics degree at the University of Westminster in 2009 where he received the Caparo Award, joining Edmund de Waal's studio that same year. His work has been featured in numerous exhibitions and galleries across the UK and internationally.
With the vessels of Barry Stedman, there is a passionate connection to landscape. These vessels connect to a long tradition of art made in direct, almost bodily response to the weather. I think of Constable lying on his back on Hampstead Heath painting his cloudscapes, obsessively recording the procession of shadows above him. I think of Peter Lanyon in the 1950s in his glider feeling the pressure of the Cornish winds, painting his iconic images of the air.
Barry paints and draws, setting off in the rain with his sketchbooks. And here with these vessels that have been thrown then cut open and altered, scored and handled, we feel the tension between areas of intense marking and areas of openness, energetic dribbles and splashes counterpointed with voids, poolings and washes of colour.
Above all with Barry's work there is the wonderful drama between slowness and speed, the feeling that there are places of lyrical flow and places of almost cussed work. Samuel Beckett, writing of his friend the painter Avigdor Arikha, captured this ebb and flow: 'By the hand it unceasingly changes the eye unceasingly changedTruce for a space and the marks of what it is to be and be in face of. These deep marks show.
(Edmund de Waal, 'Shadowlands')