Lost Utopia

The Fitzrovia Gallery is proud to present Lost Utopia: London, an exhibition of work by ceramicist Emma Finch. Lost Utopia: London is one in a series of public exhibitions of the artist’s work in London this year, including a contribution to Joseph Cornell: Wanderlust at the Royal Academy and The Discerning Eye at Mall Gallery.

Born and raised in Kensington and Camberwell, Finch developed an early interest in the capital’s rapidly changing landscape, inspired largely by her father, a post-war architect. Construction and demolition sites are recurring motifs in her work, where buildings and architectural structures are charged with meanings related to social change, hope and utopia.
Attending Saturday classes at the Chelsea Pottery and learning screen printing as a teenager, Finch went on to study at Central School of Art and Design before earning a degree in psychology and training as an Art Therapist. After a number of years of working in secure units and psychiatric hospitals, both in and outside London, treating her own artistic practice as secondary, Finch gave up her career and applied for a degree course in 3D Designs: Ceramics at Bath Spa University, Somerset. While the decision was driven by a desire to shift the focus from empowering others though art to the artist’s own creativity, Finch carried on working with different community and education groups. Society and the ability to enable others have thus remained integral to the artist’s practice and regular donations to auctions have profited the work of selected charities, including Headway, over the past years.
In 2012 Finch returned to London to complete a Master’s degree in Ceramics and Glass at the Royal College of Art and today she divides her time between Bath and London, having set up studios in both. London, nonetheless, remains the dominating feature. In the artist’s words; ‘My ceramics chronicles the ever-changing face of London; Commemorating and documenting the dilapidation of buildings and the continuum of one superimposed edifice over another, epitomised by building sites, demolitions and new constructions.’ Plates and vases take form in response to the surrounding world as imagery drawn from immediate observation make their way onto the glazed surfaces. Hand-painted and screen-printed onto slabs of clay, familiar sites ranging from the Southbank and City-district to barren facades of unnamed estates commemorate the city. Entrapment and limitless freedom – circumstances equally used to characterise life in the city – are represented in gridded buildings and vast skies. Each plate and cylindrical vase, individually made and unique, is a vibrantly coloured image of London. Colour is a central feature in Finch’s work and is often used for its ability to denote moods. For the plates contributed to Wanderlust, Finch explored shades of blue in building narratives related to Cornell’s fascination with voyaging and exploring the unknown. Dark, inky blue becomes a signifier for travels to the unknown, and bright, sky-blue was used to signify a sense of yearning and fantasy. Colours are also used to explore the formal qualities of the art form: building up rich, multi-coloured layered surfaces, Finch exploits the exuberant tactile qualities of glaze. Black, a colour rarely encountered in ceramics, becomes immersive and enigmatic in Finch’s bold use of it as backdrops for her urban landscapes. Lost Utopia: London, brings together recent ceramic works alongside a series of works on paper.

As part of Lost Utopia: London, the Fitzrovia Gallery will exhibit a small series of work by ceramicist Tessa Eastman, a fellow graduate of Finch from the RCA. Eastman has eighteen years experience of working with clay and currently splits her time between working in studio Manifold (an east London railway arch founded by a group of artists and designers in 2010) and acting as head of the Malden Centre Pottery in Surrey. She has worked as an assistant to renowned British ceramicist Kate Malone, currently featuring in the Pottery Throw Down on BBC2.
Eastman’s work has been shown by various galleries in the UK and internationally and has taken part in exhibitions with Contemporary Applied Arts and with ceramic collector Preston Fitzgerald, the judge the Young Masters Prize. Recent shows include In Support of Eating at Sketch Restaurant and The British Ceramics Biennial in the Old Spode Factory in Stoke.
Eastman takes inspiration from organic forms in nature for her ceramic works. Soft undulating cloud forms are juxtaposed with harsh rock and mesh structures to reveal internal, expanding space. When grouped, pieces form a distinctive dialogue, generating an atmosphere of harmony and tension. Six unique works will be on show throughout Lost Utopia: London.

In conjunction with the exhibition, Ben’s House, located on the corner of Whitfield Street and Grafton Way, will keep on display a selection of plates. Ben’s House, opening in 2014, is a lifestyle shop and coffee bar supporting London-based producers.

A series of Meet the Maker evens will be hosted by the gallery throughout December, please check the website, www.fitzroviagallery.co.uk, for further details.

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