Lowndes, Gillian

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Great Brittain
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Gillian Lowndes (1936 – 2 October 2010) was an English ceramics sculptor. Born in Cheshire in 1936, she spent much of her childhood in British India. She studied at the Central School of Arts and Crafts beginning in 1957 and spent a year at L’École des Beaux-Arts in Paris in 1960. In the early 1970s she traveled to Nigeria with her husband, Ian Auld, a trip that would prove to be influential in her subsequent work. From 1975 until the early 1990s, she taught part-time at Camberwell College of Arts and Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design. Since the early 1960s and 70s her work has challenged the traditional notions surrounding the form of a vessel and fine art. Through her non-traditional experimental methods of incorporating found objects and materials such as wire and various objects from found in everyday life into her ceramic work, she continually challenges the orthodox world of pure ceramics. Lowndes' affinity and approach to basic, used materials and their inherent materiality calls to mind Arte Povera. The found materials are poor, low-status ones – old bricks, clinker, granite clippings, mild steel strip, cheap industrially made cups and tiles. Lowndes' approach and experimentation with form and materials is much like that of the Process Artists of the 1960s as well. Lowndes believes that materials are the source of the ideas as well as their expression. Lowndes said of her own work that “...it is the methods and materials that produce the ideas, not the other way round. The choice of materials and the assemblage of pieces lead her towards the object and this process gives her work a strangeness that is visually rich, yet her work is still rooted with the ceramic process and material. Lowndes used many different combinations and amalgamations of clay from fiberglass dipped in liquid porcelain slip to Egyptian paste in her work. Lowndes would often bury work made of Egyptian paste in sand during the firing using a saggar. After the initial firing she would then smash the pieces with a hammer and reassemble them with ceramic mortar or Nichrome wire. Cups and tiles are added with extra glaze and act as an affectionate backward glance at the pottery traditions (that of the Leach tradition) of form and technique from which Lowndes emerged. Through the firing process, her work goes through odd, curious metamorphosis. When the work is finished, the fusion of the disparate parts rarely resembles the original piece with which she began. Previously, Lowndes had already possessed an affinity towards ethnographic objects. Ethnography is an anthropologic description of individual cultures and human social phenomena. Her visit to Nigeria codified her curiosity in the ethnographic aspects surrounding certain objects. Upon her return from Africa, Lowndes' “impatience with clay” and the so-called “craftsmanly side of her art” is apparent through her combination of mainstream sculpture materials that put the concept before the material. As a result of Lowndes’ open approach to working, leaving room for reworking and rediscovery, her work vacillates between and perhaps challenges the undefined space between craft and fine art. Her materially based experimentation and intuitive approach to making with a material that is traditionally seen as a purveyor of craft defines Lowndes' work as art that occupies an undefined space between the craft and fine art worlds (text: Wikipedia, oct. 2013).

  • Watson, Oliver, Studio Pottery, 1990.
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Pictures (source: Erskine, Hall & Coe).