Beaux Arts, York Street, Bath, May 11-27 1995
Ceramic Review 154, 1995, p44
The work in the ‘New Ceramics’ exhibition by David Roberts was both elegant and modest. The pieces displayed his former mastery of technique in combination with considered and refined form and surface detail. Although smaller in scale than much of his earlier work, its presence was undiminished. The ideas felt more substantial, the objects more resolved.
A new direction in Roberts’s work was illustrated by a series of shallow oval bowl forms. Each bowl was independent of its base, or pedestal, allowing a freedom of movement and resting position – an interesting concept and visually intriguing.
Pedestals were shaped as oval discs, akin to large flat pebbles, and provided the bowls with a constant shadow, or reflection. Precise and fluid rims gave a focus and tension to the work.
With the bowls being slightly raised on bases the viewer was made aware of linear markings on their under surface, contour lines, used to described the form and to echo landscape, an underlying influence on Roberts’s ceramics. These precisely drawn contours were created by a smoke resist firing technique, a technique that both unifies this ‘new work’ and affects its identity.
I was struck by the intimacy and sensuality of this collection of bowls, qualities heightened by their highly polished, smooth, tactile surfaces – a characteristic finish used throughout his work. Some flat sided oval vessels shared similar attributes, but here an asymmetric equilibrium made them appear almost precarious and more provocative in character. Linear ‘contour’ markings animated the surface of the forms creating directional movement. In contrast there were pots reminiscent in form of standing stones, tall, still and potentially dramatic.
A number of round full bellied pots, which one might more readily associate with Roberts were also to be seen in this exhibition, but these had evolved, with subtle articulations in form, described and emphasised by rhythmic lines across their surface. Least satisfactory of the work, in my view, were some large plates. They lacked visual harmony but were nevertheless technically impressive and exemplary examples of smoke resist crackle.
Altogether this was a well selected confident body of work which was enjoyable to view and contemplate.