Press Release: John Maltby at Rufford Craft Centre 9 March - 3 May 2004
John Maltby's Exhibition opens at Rufford Craft Centre, Nottinghamshire on 9
When John Maltby last exhibited at Rufford in 1992 all of his work was based upon the vessel form, now in this current exhibition there are only ceramic sculptures and tiles. Here he writes about the reasons for some of the evolutions that have taken place:
' I was originally trained as a sculptor: the traditional skills of modelling in clay and carving in stone, together with visits to museums in England and Europe, well-grounded enthusiasm for 'skills', which, though now seeming somewhat conservative, did provide a sound basis for creative work (which I still maintain is the necessary vocabulary for any ultimate achievement).
During those early years as a student. I made only two pots, (one of which I still have!) but I do remember the impact of seeing, by chance, some of the many large dishes that Picasso made at Vallauris, and which were displayed at the Palais Grimaldi at Antibes. Their child-like vigour, often with less than adequate knowledge, (though I did not know this at the time!) has been a leit motif for much of the art that I have found exciting in subsequent years, including work from Ogata Kenzan, Alfred Wallis and Bernard Leach.
I have always known, (since hearing Sibelius at my first concert) that I wanted to be some kind of artist. Bernard Leach was the catalyst. Meeting this immensely dignified man, who had written with passion on the creative potential of a cup and saucer, I imagined how my creative life might be satisfied by the establishment of a similar workshop. Small and flexible enough to be creative and providing an enviable life-style and security for my family. I had acquired a thorough Anglo-oriental training in the workshop of Bernard's son David and financial security was becoming a less major problem. The flexibility of thought and the inevitable evolution of ideas, which are the natural inheritance of a young person educated in the latter part of the twentieth century, became incompatible with the concept of repetitive skills, (practised in the St. Ives 'Leach' workshop for instance, though significantly not by Bernard Leach himself!)
I therefore tried to make each pot somewhat different from the previous one, not a radical change but an evolution often slight, but enough to challenge me with new relationships. Of course one lost the wonderful fluency which comes from continuous repetition, but such undeniable beauty is, in a twentieth century context, the product of abject monotony. Who is prepared to make such a sacrifice? Certainly not Bernard Leach!
I tried to find a more personal way. Not only attitudes to shape and decoration changed but also my thoughts on the pervading Anglo-Orientalism of the workshop system in which I had learnt my skills. My very Englishness somehow needed to infuse the pots and to this end I started to make patterns and drawings on them which sprang from my personal experience of the English landscape and weather and of the environment around me. It was at this point that my previous exhibition was, by coincidence, held.
In 1996, as a result of an illness, I was unable to continue and while convalescing made small objects in clay. They were extensions of those concerns, which I had tried to develop in the pots, a gentle evolution one from the other, clay fluency which allowed the material to speak with its own voice and which was unconscious after thirty years of ceramic making. English subjects, which are, of course, the only subjects that I can really know and care passionately about.
I realised that it was the very uniqueness of various individual artists' work that absorbed me. The 'difference' between the vision of Picasso and Leach for instance, not something that can be easily expressed within the confines of the traditional workshop.
For me nothing can substitute for the adrenaline rush that comes from the evolutionary difference of one sculpture from another, with work that I hope is both personal and peculiarly English.
The work has now no actual function, I find it difficult to embrace an attitude which is wedded too closely to repetition, but these various strands of forty five years of making have now, coincidentally, come together in this current exhibition.'
The exhibition also features the photographs of Andrew Sanderson.
Location: Rufford Craft Centre, Ollerton, Newark, Nottinghamshire, NG22 9DF
Tel: 01623 822944 ext. 207 or 208
Date: 9 March - 3 May 2004
Time: Open daily, 10.30am - 5.00pm
Please mention "studiopottery.co.uk" if contacting Rufford Craft Centre.