I’ve been to the Erskine, Hall & Coe gallery in the Royal Arcade again, this time for a mixed exhibition of international ceramics that includes several Japanese ceramists as well as some of the major names in English pottery like Bernard Leach and the modernist Lucie Rie. They all work in a pared-down, honest style that owes a lot to the Mingei movement in Japan pioneered by Shoji Hamada.
It was the Lucie Rie works that I found most interesting, possibly because I’ve not seen a lot of her work before. There were five vases, bowls and jars on display, deceptively simple pots that reduce form, texture and function to the essential.
Her biographer, Tony Birks, thinks they’re a combination of opposites: simple, yet subtly complex; economical, yet luxurious; and sturdy, yet frail. This frailty has apparently come to be known as the ‘Lucie Rie quiver’.
Lucie Rie was born Lucie Gomperz in Vienna in 1902 and came to England in 1938, fleeing the Nazis. She had a small studio on Albion Mews, near Hyde Park, where she lived and worked for fifty years.
I would happily give a home to any one of her pots were it not for the prices which tended to hover around the £20,000 mark.
More affordable was the sole work on show by Bernard Leach, Hamada’s friend and collaborator, the father of the English equivalent of the Mingei movement. This lovely vase could be yours for a mere £1,750.
There were three Japanese ceramicists in the exhibition. I’ve seen Shozo Michikawa’s work at Erskine Hall before. I like his warm earth tones and rough textures. His work is priced around £3-4,000.
This large jar by Shiro Tsujimura was displayed over the entrance to the gallery. It’s not painted – it’s been splashed, soaked and drizzled with glazes before firing. You can’t really tell from the photo but it’s pretty big – several feet high – which probably justifies its price tag of £8,800.
His smaller tea bowl and sake jar are more accessibly priced at £800 and £900 respectively.
Tatsuzo Shimaoka was a Mingei potter who studied under Shoji Hamada and became the second National Living Treasure of the Mashiko pottery region. He invented a technique known as Jomon zogan because it combined two ancient crafts. In the Jomon era they used ropes to impress designs on clay and in the Korean Yi era they applied white slip to indented decoration. Shimaoka combined these and carved back into the white slip to make the decoration stand out in relief.
This square plate by him is priced at £2,000.
The exhibition continues until 10th April. Erskine, Hall & Coe is in the Royal Arcade which runs between Old Bond St and Albemarle St. It’s open Tuesday to Saturday 10 am to 6 pm.