I cover Edmund de Waal’s exhibitions on the blog whenever I can – I love his ceramics – and his strong association with Japan through his family netsuke collection and his training as a potter qualifies him for a blog about art (and other things) with a Japanese connection. Though I’m stretching things a little as his current exhibition isn’t in London but at the Turner Contemporary in Margate. Still, it’s day trip-able from London so do what I did and get down there for a look – you won’t be disappointed.
The exhibition is titled Atmosphere. It consists of nine vitrines – opaque, semi-opaque and clear – of de Waal’s signature plain white pots, hung in front of the grand window at Margate’s popular new gallery, with just the sea and the sky beyond. It’s a magical combination; the pots and vitrines seem to bring the sky into sharp focus while the ever-changing clouds make a fascinating backdrop to the work.
de Waal was inspired by one of Turner’s letters to the art critic John Ruskin, in which he says ‘atmosphere is my style’. Each vitrine has a title taken from Thomas Forster’s list of cloud classifications of 1813 – you can see the names written in de Waal’s characteristic spidery handwriting on the wall: wanecloud, sondercloud, twaincloud, fallcloud, stackencloud, raincloud. It ends ‘lie on the ground and do your own skying’ and rubber mats are provided to enable you to do just that.
There is also a smaller work that stands in the centre of the gallery, a free-standing piece of porcelain vessels within a cluster of clear and opaque vitrines. It’s called bauspiel, after a children’s construction set designed at the Bauhaus School in Germany.
In addition, de Waal has created a new text work along the wall of the gallery, which expresses the thoughts and feelings that led him to make the work. ‘You want to see the clouds and the winds,’ it says, in part, ‘so you make nine vitrines – nine places for your cloudy pots and then you hang them against a sky, near the sea, on a window that catches each breath of the day and say this is my style, my atmosphere.’
You can view the works from the main hall or from a small gallery above. I think you get the better view from the gallery – it was there that we were most struck by the changing impressions changes in the light could give.
The Turner Contemporary is on the seafront at Margate, a short walk from the station. Fast trains from St Pancras take an hour and twenty-eight minutes. The gallery is open Tuesday to Sunday plus bank holidays 10 am to 6 pm and entry is free. The exhibition continues until 8th February 2015.