Richard Slee

Camp Futility

Studio Voltaire presented a new commission by Richard Slee, comprising a series of objects and installations made specifically for the exhibition. Slee is an important figure within contemporary ceramics and the exhibition was his first presentation in a public gallery since From Utility to Futility, a solo exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum in 2010.

Central to Slee’s exhibition at Studio Voltaire were a number of works based on vernacular objects such as: wood saws, hammers, pick axes and camping equipment. Inspired by a residency at Alfred University, upstate New York, the works investigated particular myths surrounding the symbolism of America as a land of the great outdoors and pioneer spirit. Lashed together workbenches, scattered tools and an abandoned camp-fire transform into an allegory of abandoned industry.

Ideas challenging the economy of productive labour are implicit in Slee’s combination of the hand-made and the found object. The uncanny hybrid of the deskilled ready-made and the crafted object convey a subversive humour that playfully investigates the limits of the ceramic tradition. Mass produced, everyday objects are meticulously realized with highly glazed, bright colours. These seductive surfaces recall a Pop or postmodern aesthetic that belies the psychological and cultural references within the object.

Supported by SIMONE and The Henry Moore Foundation.

  1. Richard Slee (b. 1946, Carlisle) works and lives in London. He studied Ceramics at Central School of Art & Design and the Royal College of Art. Until 2011 he was a senior Professor at the University of the Arts in London. His work has been shown in London and internationally since the late 1970s and recent exhibitions include Postmodernism: Style and Subversion 1970 – 1990, V&A Museum, London (2011-12), The Pier Arts Centre, Stromness (2004) and Tate St Ives (2003). His most recent solo exhibition, Mantlepiece Observations opened in 2021 at Bolton Museum, UK. Slee is represented by Hales Gallery, London.

  2. Richard Slee, Camp Futility, 2012. Installation View, Studio Voltaire, London. Courtesy of the artist and Hales Gallery, London. Credit Andy Keate.

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