Telling Tales by Anna Noël

 

Anna Noël’s figurative ceramics capture moments of interaction between animals and between people and animals. These enigmatic sculptures portray a seeming simplicity, yet they evoke intrigue that is distinctive of Anna’s practice.

Anna Noël’s work is motivated by narrative. We all enjoy a good story, there is pleasure to be shared in the telling and receiving of stories. Anna conjures hers out of clay. From early childhood to the present day, Anna’s creative instincts are imbued with tale telling. The moments she captures in her ceramic forms might continue to be … ‘they all lived happily ever after,’ or they might all come to a sticky end. The narrative is up to us.

Working from her studio on the Gower peninsula in south Wales, the 17th century farmhouse has long been familial and creative home for Anna. At the side of one of the barns, Anna’s studio looks out into woodland.

Animals have fascinated Anna since childhood and their imagery fuels her imagination. Animals in stories and folklore often symbolise complexities of childhood, and of adulthood. Anna is interested in how the animal form can express emotion, spirituality and ways of seeing the world. Her fascination with storytelling and perceptions of narrative lead her to include text in some of her work. Excerpts from poems, riddles and rhymes are often etched or pressed into her work using lead type.

Simplicity of form inspires Anna, such as that found in ancient sculptures and folk art. Her sculptures of animals and of people with animals share both a simplicity and a strong definition of form.

Hand-built in fine stoneware, Anna uses a variety of construction methods for her pieces. Press moulded bases create an environment for the animals and figures and, often, a background for text. Anna manipulates slabs of clay from the inside to form the different elements of animals and figures. These, and sometimes the moulded plinths, are then modelled together and finished using earthenware glazes, brushed slips and oxides.

Having graduated from Bath Academy of Art with a first class honours degree in ceramics, Anna went on to undertake a Masters in Ceramics at the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1991. Anna has worked full-time in her ceramic practice since. Her work is represented in several public collections including Aberystwyth Ceramic Collection, Shipley Ceramic Collection, and the Clay Centre collection in Philadelphia, U.S.

As a major solo exhibition, Telling Tales affords an opportunity to see Anna’s work in its own realm. Telling Tales is a chance for us to explore her creative world, a world where, maybe, anything seems possible.

Introduction by Ceri Jones

 

We all enjoy a good story. Be it an intriguing myth, a local happening, or a fantastical tale, there is pleasure to be shared in the telling and receiving of stories. Anna Noël conjures stories out of clay. From early childhood to the present day, Anna’s creative instincts are imbued with tale telling.

As the big sister in the family, Anna would guide her younger siblings on dreamlike adventures. Props and costumes would add layers to their escapades. As Anna warmly recounts these familial scenes, it’s easy to see how this creation of tableaus decades ago translates into her ceramic sculptures today. Her assemblages of animals and people, mounted on plinths that are inscribed with carefully selected excerpts from rhymes or fables, are evocative of childhood make-believe. Though for Anna, this strong draw to make-believe persisted through youth, when walks with her dog would transform into wild imaginings, and into adulthood when, still, anything seems possible.

It is this enduring belief in possibility and potential that is the essence of Anna’s ceramic practice. What was innocently made up as a child now brings, through experience, different resonance. There is plenty that is untold in Anna’s sculptures. Anna sets up the tableau from which we can let our own stories unfold, allowing for happily ever after or a grisly end. The joy is that we have the freedom to add narrative.

Anna chooses not to lay bare the stories that she has at her creative fingertips as she models the clay. Instead, she revels in the moment that she is capturing in clay. Here are moments suspended in time. Here, for this instant, is equanimity between people and beasts. 

Anna has long been fascinated by animals, indigenous and exotic, and by peoples’ relationships with animals. Growing up in the countryside, with a dog at her side and free roaming cats, she has keenly observed animals in their habitats. Agricultural animals, woodland creatures, seashore life, Anna has allowed herself insight into animal habits and characteristics. She has also found quiet companionship in animals, trust and reassurance. It is owing to her observations that she knows to take nothing for granted.

And so it is, that Anna’s work opens our conversation about the rich and varied languages of clay. This exhibition, Telling Tales, is the first in a series of solo exhibitions of work by practitioners who use and express clay in very different ways. The Language of Clay: Part One comprises three touring exhibitions by artists Anna Noël, Micki Schloessingk and Anne Gibbs. Each artist approaches the medium with varying perspectives, experiences and skills. Being an organic medium, clay responds to such variances dynamically.

The language of clay is wonderfully diverse. The manipulation of clay leads to functional, sculptural, gurative and abstract forms. Ceramic pieces can have a transient fragility or a long-serving robustness. They can assume a purpose or simply delight, or both. The Language of Clay series is an opportunity to explore and discover the diversity of the medium and the plethora of talented artists working with it. The practices of the three female artists, whose work is being celebrated in Part One, are each pivotal to the ceramic genres in which they work. They each speak very differently through clay, yet the creative explorations of all of them touch on elements of humanity.

Studio Visit

Interview with Anna Noël and Ceri Jones

Exhibition at Mission Gallery

Touring Schedule

 

Oriel Canfas

Cardiff

16 January - 20 February 2016

 

Llantarnam Grange Arts Centre

Cwmbran

Summer - Autumn 2016

 

 

 

Ruthin Craft Centre

Denbinghshire

23 April - 10 July 2016

 

Ceramic Gallery

Aberystwyth

Autumn - Winter 2016

 
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Biography

 

Working from her studio on the Gower peninsula in south Wales, Lower Hareslade farm has long been a familial and creative home for Anna. At the side of one of the barns, Anna’s studio looks out into woodland.

Animals have fascinated Anna since childhood and their imagery fuels her imagination. Animals in stories and folklore often symbolise complexities of childhood, and of adulthood. Anna is interested in how the animal form can express emotion, spirituality and ways of seeing the world. Her fascination with storytelling and perceptions of narrative lead her to include text in some of her work. Excerpts from poems, riddles and rhymes are often etched or pressed into her work using lead type.

Simplicity of form inspires Anna, such as that found in ancient sculptures and folk art. Her sculptures of animals and of people with animals share both a simplicity and a strong definition of form.

Hand-built in white earthenware, Anna uses a variety of construction methods for her pieces. Press moulded bases create an environment for the animals and figures and, often, a background for text. Anna manipulates slabs of clay from the inside to form the different elements of animals and figures. These, and sometimes the moulded plinths, are then modelled together and finished using either earthenware glazes or brushed slips and oxides. Anna also makes a range of individual animals, based on simple press moulds which she then models and applies decorative features to.

All her sculptures are fired up to earthenware temperatures of 1100 ̊C.

Having graduated from Bath Academy of Art with a first class honours degree in ceramics, Anna went on to undertake a Masters in Ceramics at the Royal College of Art, graduating in 1991. Anna has worked full-time in her ceramic practice since.

Anna’s work is represented in several public collections including Aberystwyth Ceramic Collection, Shipley Ceramic Collection, and the Clay Centre collection in Philadelphia, U.S.A.

Anna exhibits her work at galleries throughout the UK, as well as taking private commissions. Recent exhibitions have included: Collect 2015 with Ruthin Craft Centre – presented by the Crafts Council at the Saatchi Gallery, London; The Open Eye Gallery, Edinburgh; Eton Applied Art; Beaux Art in Bath; Broadway Modern; John Noott Galleries; Pyramid Gallery in York; Montpellier Gallery in Stratford-upon-Avon.