By Katrina Ffiske.
The Wessex Gallery of archaeology at the Salisbury Museum, has one case, The Wessex Case, set aside for local artists’ installations.
Presently, Ansty-based artist and ceramicist, Patricia Low, has filled it with her work and a carefully chosen curation of artefacts from the Museum’s collection.
I went to meet Patricia and Adrian Green, director of Salisbury Museum, to hear more about the installation.
“We love to invite local artists to exhibit alongside our collection of archaeology discoveries that tell the story
of Salisbury and the surrounding area from prehistoric times to the Norman Conquest,” Adrian said.
“I have been an admirer of Patricia’s work for many years, and knowing how inspired she is by the museum, it seemed natural to invite her to do something in the Wessex Case. It is wonderful to see her work sit alongside pieces that were created many, many years ago.”
Patricia produces large, bold pots, painted expertly with birds, animals, fish and patterns. The installation shows the creative process behind the works including a stark, plain, biscuit-fired pot, each coil and carefully placed thumbprint clearly visible; on the wall hangs two impressive watercolours of flying owls.
“The animals or birds are first painted on paper before being transferred onto the pot. My subjects come from my surroundings and I try to imagine what it would be like to be a particular animal, create their energy in watercolour, then transfer this to the pot.
“The fur or the plumage of the animal becomes the pattern on the vases.”
Small sketchbooks show how patterns are created; small tiles show how colours are mixed. Together with Adrian, Patricia chose Bronze Age thumb pots and beaker pots, a flint arrowhead and a collection of gold jewellery, all around 4,000 years old, plus one tiny, Roman, thrown pot also of great beauty. It is mesmerising seeing work from thousands
of years ago sit alongside modern pieces.
“This is where man first started using his hands,” Patricia commented. “The methods have not changed in all these years. There is an underlying thread connecting the works.”
She recalled how she was inspired by pottery at a young age: “When I was 16, a friend and I went from Marlborough to Avebury in a pony and trap. There was this tiny museum showing Bronze Age thumb and beaker pots.
“These simple, beautiful crafted pots went straight to my heart. Later in life I became an artist and an art teacher and forgot this love of pottery until I spent a weekend with friends who suggested spending the day making coil pots.
“From that moment on I was a lover of pottery. There is something so therapeutic about the simplicity of making coil pots. My training as an artist at Swindon and Chelsea Art School and career as artist and teacher, have proved invaluable for my work now.”
Patricia is happy to take commissions. One of her most memorable requests came from theatre producer Cameron Mackintosh, who wanted his dog painted.
To save Patricia going to London, the Rhodesian Ridgeback was sent down in a taxi for a day’s sitting. The final product was an immense pot with three images of Cameron’s dog wrapped around its body.
This is a wonderful installation and particularly inspiring seeing pots from 4,000 years ago, alongside the grand, stunning works of a local artist.
The installation is on display until 20 March 2023.