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Collection Reflection: Richard Slee

1 July 2020 12:00 pm

Image: Richard Slee, England b.1946, Cornucopia Vase 1984, Earthenware

In this week’s Collection Reflection, we hear from Gallery Assistant Carly Rybak on Richard Slee’s Cornucopia Vase.

Cornucopia means horn of plenty.  The ancient Greeks imagined the cornucopia as a mythical horn able to provide whatever is desired. This seems appropriate to Richard Slee who was given the title the ‘Grand Wizard of Studio Ceramics’.  Slee, one of Britain’s most important ceramic artists, is known for his hand built brightly coloured earthenware pieces. Cornucopia Vase with its luminous ice-cream pink coloured glaze, and blue collar is typical of works he made during this period.  Slee made a few cornucopia’s in a cheerful and happy period of his life.  Its traditional form references ceramic cornucopia’s made in the eighteenth century which were heavily gilded and adorned with fruit.

His works have an odd and dreamlike quality. Inspiration for these joyous and deliberately absurd works comes from his collection of photographs and souvenirs such as seaside postcards, whimsy ornaments from boot sales, porcelain figurines and kitsch animals in abstract landscapes.  He wants his work to tell stories and also for viewers to create their own tales.

Slee grew up in Carlisle and studied at the art college there.  He moved to London in 1965, where he studied ceramics at Central School of Art and Design and following this, was employed there as a technician.  Later, in 1988, he graduated with an MA from the Royal College of Art and went on to teach at Camberwell College.  As well as the Middlesbrough Collection at MIMA, his work is collected around the globe and includes the V & A and the Crafts Council Collections.

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