I visited York Art Gallery yesterday for the first time in ages, and happened upon a very interesting and intriguingly curated exhibition of the work of ceramicist Gordon Baldwin.
On entering the space, the visitor is confronted, almost overwhelmed, by parallel lines of closely positioned ceramics in the manner of a classical sculpture gallery: à la Chatsworth or the V&A. It seemed at first glance an odd way of displaying the work. The minimalist and modernist form of many of the works would normally, I suspect, have generated a more reverential placing of each item in its own sacred gallery ‘space’.
But the eclectic massing here worked rather well. There was a sense of moving within a landscape, of experiencing landscape forms, and then when I saw the title of the exhibition was Objects For A Landscape it all made sense. Baldwin uses clay “as a three-dimensional canvas for his imaginative journeys” and he is happy to acknowledge that his pots connote many different ideas and everyone takes a different meaning from them.
I liked the ceramics though I wasn’t gripped by them. I am not familiar with his work, but it seemed to me that the lovely painterly marks on the ceramic surfaces didn’t move me in the way they might have done on paper.
And then I saw his drawings, which I thought were truly wonderful. Perhaps I enjoyed these more because of my own love of drawing: Vessel Form 1987 was very powerful, but the drawing Drawing In August 1981 was even more so. For me.