Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Ceramics by Halima Cassell

Dreams Made Manifest

Anyone bringing ceramics to these parts should be prepared for a friendly reminder that we have more then enough clay beneath our feet. Not that Halima Cassell has anything to fear. The Blackburn artist’s eye catching work ensures she’ll never be accused of carrying the proverbial coals to Newcastle.

As recently noted in Art Daily ceramics is once again making an impact on the international scene as a new generation of artists breathes life into the centuries old material. Having exhibited extensively both in the UK and internationally Pakistan born Cassell’s latest collection, fusing history and tradition with contemporary flair, is her biggest solo show to date.  

Blurring the line between raw material and finished work she prefers to leave her ceramics unglazed allowing the clay to provide the colour while the interaction of light and shadow on the deeply carved surfaces adds a sense of drama to her multi-faceted dish-like forms.

Unsurprisingly the influence of her Asian background is evident throughout but so too is a fascination with the artistic heritage of other cultures ranging from African design to Neo-Gothic architecture. Traces of Modernism in the shape of Hepworth, Modigliani and naturally Brancusi are also apparent.

Perhaps less obvious yet equally interesting are subtle shifts between organically feminine forms and robustly masculine ones. This playfulness appears to be a feature of Cassell’s work - a mixture of the structured and the fugitive - a fusion of parallel planes and flowing lines.

Alongside Cassell’s trademark ceramics are recent pieces in other materials – stone, wood and most notably bronze (and here the ghost of Brancusi looms largest) - pointing towards a diversification of her practice and a growing concern with sculptural form.

This exhibition deserves to be seen in North Staffordshire. The days of large scale pottery manufacturing may be over but with so many of us able to say ‘my grandmother was a ceramic artist’ Cassell is guaranteed to find a discerning audience - just don’t expect any cups and saucers.

Halima Cassell: Dreams Made Manifest continues at Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Museum and Art Gallery until May 8.

A version of this post originally appeared in the gO supplement of the Sentinel 25.03.11

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