Compare the ideas, techniques and approaches of two ceramic artists from different periods (Alan Peascod and Bernard Leach).
Australian ceramics has experienced an exciting evolution over the past 60 years, when ceramics was first offered as a full-time course at RMIT in 1947. At that time, the “high priests” of pottery were Shoji Hamada o f Japan, and Bernard Leach in the UK, who shared similar philosophies and aesthetic values. Leach wrote “The Potters Book” which was to become the ‘bible’, or text of choice for the many tertiary institutes around Australia who were opening up ceramic courses to satisfy the growing demand for training in what was seen to be an alternative career path in Australian arts during the post WWII years.
From this Leach foundation the first generation of Australian potters went forth, amongst whom the more notable were Anne Dangar, John Perceval, Arthur Boyd, Peter Rushforth and Ivan McKeekin. Rushforth is a much celebrated traditional ceramicist, and who then went on to teach at East Sydney Technical College (now known as the National School of Art) for 25 years, and who remained faithful to the Hamada/Leach philosophies all his life. One of his students, Alan Peascod went on to challenge many widely accepted techniques, developing his own innovative, unique and deeply explorative series of work. Looking through the Analytical Frameworks, Leach had a strong personal philosophy, and in his teachings he referred to “ethical pots”, advocating simple and utilitarian forms that are “naturally shaped”, and look hand crafted, as opposed to “expressive or fine art pots” which promoted aesthetic concerns rather than function. This is in contrast with Alan Peascod’s innate sense of expression through the use of elegant adornment, and forms that were designed to be beautiful, not necessarily functional. However, like Leach, for most of his career he retained a utilitarian form (the ‘vessel’) as the basis of his artworks. Leach saw pottery as a combination of art, philosophy, design and craft. Function gave his pottery a sense of purpose, with the materials and processes dictating individual character to each pot, rendering his ceramics as meaningful art. “It seems reasonable to expect that beauty will emerge from a fusion of the individual character and culture of the potter, with the nature of his materials”. (Quote by Bernard Leach in ‘A Potters Book’, 1940, Faber & Faber,London ). In this regard, Peascod shared Leach’s philosophy, writing “For me, it is the spiritual objective that has become the generator of artistic pursuit.” (extracted from Janet Mansfield, ‘Alan Peascod: Technical Innovator’ - Influences and Dialogues, Faculty of Creative Arts – Papers, 2008). His personal belief was that “it was the role of the artist to be true to himself only” (extracted from Graham Oldroyd, ‘Alan Peascod: Magician’ - Influences and Dialogues, Faculty of Creative Arts - Papers, 2008), and true to his belief he was not driven or dictated by contemporary art trends. From this perspective, Peascod appears to have shared the Hamada/Leach philosophy.
The formal aspect that frames Leach’s work shows he favoured the potter’s wheel for the construction of his ceramic work, but often incorporated slab and coil techniques that gave his work a distinctive hand-crafted appeal. Peascod also used the potter’s wheel, often employing the technique of assemblage of several wheel thrown components, and adding generously proportioned pulled handles and spouts of great character to create a sense of visual balance. The construction techniques and vessel foundations appear to be the only points of similarity, however, as the element of form divide the two styles: Leach maintained sensible shapes where function dictated form, and his wares are firmly planted on wide bases emitting a sense of heaviness; Peascod’s vessel forms, by contrast are exquisitely balanced, seemingly weightless on delicate bases with...
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