Sara Flynn

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Front Cover: Dimple Camber Vessel, 2014 30 cm high (SF-0131) This page: Camber Vessel, 2014 27 cm high (SF-0129)

SARA FLYNN 5 - 27 November 2014 Private View 4 November, 6-8pm, artist present

15 Royal Arcade, 28 Old Bond Street, London, W1S 4SP +44 (0) 20 7491 1706 | |

Hipped Camber Vessel, 2014 29.5 cm high (SF-0123)

Sara and Martha in Black

One of the most annoying sayings is “it’s either black or white.” It suggests that each is an absolute. But the next question could be “which black and which white?” In their purest sense they may be exact opposites (black reflects no colour and white reflects all colour; one is absence of light and the other excess of light). Even though works in this exhibition by Sara Flynn are black, white and yellow, I am going to deal only with black: gorgeous, dark, mysterious, compelling, velvety, rich, deep, profound, threatening, powerful, emphatic, mass-friendly, clean, sharp, eternally elegant and mysterious.

Black drew me to Flynn’s pots: I am a sucker for darkness, but it is their sense of performance that has kept me intrigued. Music and dance are metaphors that pottery often evokes. The best of handmade pots are kinetic, they move as the eye explores line and silhouette and Flynn’s are no exception, indeed great exemplars. Her line is languorous and moves slowly and sensually. The first time I spent serious time looking at them I could not help but think of the Black Swan. During my student years at the Royal College of Art, I could often be found outside the Royal Opera House a pound note in hand to buy a 90p ticket in the gods, the highest balcony, and saw many of the Ballet’s stars, including Nureyev and Fonteyn, dance Swan Lake.

The above are just a few of the reasons I have had a livelong affair with the beauty of black pots, from the pit-fired beer vessels of the Zulu when I was growing up in South Africa to the black-on-black mastery of Maria and Julian Martinez now that I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

From the outset the most riveting part of the ballet was the black swan. I always felt that she was not causing the tragedy but warning of its inevitability. Her command of space, her fierceness and sharply etched movement was mesmerizing. There is something of the power and precision of that choreography in Flynn’s black pots.

When Maria first made these pots she hid them under her bed. They were innovative, nothing like the pottery of her pueblo San Ildefonso. When the anthologist Edgar Lee Hewitt finally coaxed them out, Maria only agreed because, “Black goes with everything and they became an international sensation.”

At the same time, when I recently revisited this comparison it did not hold as true as it once did. Flynn is not a classicist. She is a modernist and her gestures in form are more organic and liberated. Ballet, so frontal and outward, did not explain what her pots did. It did not offer the same conflict between interior and exterior that is at the core of her art.

Spine Camber Vessel, 2014 28 cm high (SF-0128)

This is not a fanciful comparison. Peter Voulkos once said that when you touch clay it moves and you have to learn to dance with it. His student Michael Frimkess said it differently, to make a vessel shape you first have to discover its choreography. The link is there. On the surface Erskine, Hall and Coe believe they are hosting an exhibition of mainly black pots but it is really a dance performance expressed through the potter’s hands. No music is needed. The rhythmic sway and lilt of Flynn’s vessels provide the syncopation.

Photograph of Martha Graham courtesy of the National Library of Congress, Washington DC

Yet dance would not leave my mind. I remembered a 1930 photograph by Herta Moselsio of Martha Graham in Lamentation No. 15, performing within a volume of dark stretch fabric that encapsulated her entire body, moving this membrane with her body, sexually intense, making shape after shape coming from what seems to be a woman in a pot. Thus, if you think of Martha Graham as the black swan and blend the two, the metaphors ring true. There is a foundation of classicism that underpins the compositional strengths in Flynn’s pots together with the expressionistic ardor of modern dance. Esker Vessel, 2014 27 cm high (SF-0137)

The black pots do not share the light the way the white ones do. They are greedy performers and hungrily absorb most of the lumens from the spotlights and give back their gestural energy in return. The little reflection that does occur is from the glaze texture. It modulates the density of the black allowing a silvery highlight to appear here and there. And the weighty black glaze roots them to the earth, owning the space they occupy, projecting gravitas and mystery as they stretch, extend, bow and preen. And what do the white pots do? That is another essay for another time. Garth Clark Chief Editor of CFile

Camber Vessel, 2014 28.5 cm high (SF-0125)

This page: Camber Line Vessel, 2014 30 cm high (SF-0147) Opposite: Narrow Camber Vessel, 2014 30 cm high (SF-0132)

From left to right: Bowl, 2014 10.5 x 22.5 cm (SF-0145) Camber Vessel, 2014 29.5 cm high (SF-0126) Hipped Camber Vessel, 2014 27 cm high (SF-0124)

Opposite: Camber Vessel, 2014 33 cm high (SF-0133) This page: Camber Vessel, 2014 33 cm high (SF-0130)

This page: Bowl, 2014 12 x 22.5 cm high (SF-0144) Opposite from left to right: Esker Vessel, 2014 21 cm high (SF-0139) Esker Vessel, 2014 16.5 cm high (SF-0135)

Esker Vessel, 2014 27.5 cm high (SF-0138)

This page: Esker Vessel, 2014 12.5 cm high (SF-0141) Opposite: Esker Vessel, 2014 10 cm high (SF-0136)

Opposite: Esker Vessel, 2014 16.5 cm high (SF-0135) This page: Camber Vessel, 2014 10.5 cm high (SF-0127)

Sara Flynn (b.1971) Public Collections

The Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, USA Chatsworth House, Chatsworth, UK Columbus State University, Georgia, USA Crawford Municipal Art Gallery, Cork, Ireland Department of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Embassies Collection (Irish Embassies in Canberra, Australia, Madrid, Spain, The Hague, The Netherlands and Beijing, China) National Museum of Ireland, Dublin, Ireland Office of Public Works, Farmleigh House, Dublin, Ireland Shanghai Municipal People’s Government, China

Selected Solo and Group Exhibitions 2014

Vase, Vessel, Void, Oliver Sears Gallery, Dublin, Ireland European Ceramic Context 2014, Bornholm Art Museum, Bornholm, Denmark Taste Contemporary Craft, Geneva, Switzerland 2013 FIVE into FOUR, Oliver Sears Gallery, Dublin, Ireland The Importance of West, The Lavit Gallery, Cork, Ireland 2012 In Situ, The Civic, Barnsley, Yorkshire, UK (and in 2013 at The Djanogly Art Gallery, Lakeside Art Centre at Nottingham University, UK) My Place, The Bluecoat Display Centre, Liverpool, UK Sara Flynn, Erskine, Hall & Coe, London, UK Collect, Erskine, Hall & Coe, London, UK SOFA, Erskine, Hall & Coe, New York, USA 2011 Dubh - A Dialogue in Black, AIHS, New York, NY, USA (and in 2012 at Oliver Sears Gallery, Dublin, Ireland) TransFORM, Ceramics Ireland Juried Exhibition, Ireland FineEarth, Wandesford Quay Gallery, Cork, Ireland 2010 Design Miami/Basel, Miami, Florida, USA Black, Leach Pottery Museum, St. Ives, Cornwall, UK

This page: Bowl, 2014 14 x 25.5 cm high (SF-0143) Back cover from left to right: Hipped Camber Vessel, 2014 17 cm high (SF-0134) Esker Vessel, 2014 20.5 cm high (SF-0140)

All works are porcelain The exhibition will be fully illustrated on our website photography by Michael Harvey printed at Witherbys Lithoflow Printing design by fivefourandahalf Š Erskine, Hall & Coe Ltd, 2012 Gallery opening hours during the exhibition: Monday to Saturday: 10am-6pm