pottery

How a visit to your local potter proves that art history is bunk

[I seem unable to stop interrupting myself]

At least the grand-sweep art history in which one style emerges out of another and artists are forever breaking, surpassing, and overthrowing.  The potter’s work was what is usually termed “interesting” — “inept” would be impolite; perhaps “naif” would be a good word; though certainly “ugly” would still apply.  In short, it was like the rest of the “searching”, “exploring”, “overthrowing” and “challenging””work” out there.  The sort of work whose technical ineptitude is explained away by gushing reviewers as due to it being so very new — “in early stages of development”.

Curious to know why she makes what she makes, I engaged her in conversation about her work and discovered that she had never been to the local museums to look at the pottery there (the city sports one of the best tile museums in the world); has never heard of of Izniks (one of the world’s top three museum for Iznik pottery is only five kilometers away from her studio); and had a vague notion that Chinese export-porcelain had been made by the Portuguese.

I had a strong sense of a deja vu:  a piano teacher had once confessed to me at the Suvarnabhumi airport — confessed without the slightest suggestion of embarrassment — that she had never heard of Domenico Scarlatti.

Conclusion:  if it looks like the work of an ignoramus, it probably is.  If you don’t know the past, you aren’t overthrowing it, are you? 

(Corollary 1:  And if you knew it, you probably wouldn’t be).

(Corollary 2:  If you don’t remember the past, you can’t even repeat it).

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Some Kashan pottery at the Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon

Seljuk Period, 12th-13th century.


Three Urbinos at the Museu de Arte Antiga, Lisbon

Maiolicas — painted faiance pottery from North Italy — mainly Romagna and Umbria — comes in many styles/ color schemes; but the rich, warm colors of Ubrino are unique within the group — “Urbinos”.


Five Delfts at the Museu de Arte Antiga

Large serving plates. Weirdly, the less they try to look Chinese, the better they look.


Iznik pottery at the Çinili Koşk, Istanbul Archeology Museums, Istanbul

The quality of design and painting on this plate richly deserved the painstaking gluing together of the thirty some pieces into which it had been broken. Other delightful pieces at the Çinili Koşk include this fanciful 16th century pitcher (missing a handle), dug up near the Grand Bazaar:

(what would you call this pattern? “Castles in the clouds”? “Earthquake”?)

and two very beautifully painted lamps: