Camp Futility

Richard Slee

Studio Voltaire presents a new commission by Richard Slee, comprising of a series of objects and installations made specifically for the exhibition. Slee is an important figure within contemporary ceramics and the exhibition will be his first presentation in a public gallery since From Utility to Futility, a solo exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2010.

Central to Slee’s exhibition at Studio Voltaire are a number of works based on vernacular objects such as wood saws, hammers, pick axes and camping equipment. Inspired by a recent residency at Alfred University, in upstate New York, the works investigate particular myths and the symbolism of our ideas of America such as the great outdoors and the pioneer spirit. Lashed together workbenches that refer to old mining equipment, various scattered tools and an abandoned camp-fire can be read as an allegory to abandoned industries where whole communities move on to find employment elsewhere.

Ideas challenging the economy of productive labour are implicit in Slee’s combination of the hand-made and the found object. The uncanny hybrid of the de-skilled ready-made and the crafted object convey a subversive humourous vision that playfully investigates the limits of the ceramic tradition. Mass produced, everyday objects are meticulously realized with highly glazed, bright colours. These seductive surfaces recall a Pop or post-modern aesthetic that belies the more psychological, underlying cultural references of an object’s utility.

Sponsored by SIMONE and The Henry Moore Foundation.

About the artist

Richard Slee (b. 1946, Carlisle) works and lives in London. He studied Ceramics at Central School of Art & Design and the Royal College of Art. Until last year, he was a senior Professor at the University of the Arts in London. His work has been shown in London and internationally since the late 1970s and recent exhibitions include Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 – 1990, V&A Museum, London (2011-12), The Peir Arts Centre, Stromness (2004) and Tate St Ives (2003). Slee is represented by Hales Gallery, London.

Image credit

Richard Slee, Camp Futility, 2012. Installation View, Studio Voltaire, London. Courtesy of the artist and Hales Gallery, London. Credit Andy Keate.

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