Last year we introduced ceramics to Gallery 94, a decision partly informed by the deep history of potters working in and around Lewes. You only have to think of Quentin Bell at Charleston or the pioneering James Tower in his Barcombe studio, developing a practice inspired by the windswept coastlines and undulating hills of Sussex, ‘hymns to the beauty of the natural world’.
Likewise, the award-winning ceramicist Tanya Gomez has also set up her studio in Lewes, drawn to the sea nearby and access to the South Downs. She writes, ‘I make these works conscious of natural phenomena, dramatic landscapes and the diverse qualities of the sea. I spent five years working on private yachts travelling the globe absorbing colour, shape and diverse cultures. I have also always lived by the sea and it is where I currently have a studio. All of these inspire my work.’
Gomez is fascinated by cylindrical forms, thrown at the wheel in parts, cut up and assembled. There is a joyful collective rhythm to her works and each vessel can be enjoyed as a single entity or assembled with others, arranged along a mantlepiece, tabletop or windowsill. She describes her practice as an opportunity for ‘fluidity, movement and to provide a sense of space. It is through a process of energetic making and rigorous selection I have learnt to observe how the clay works and find new ways to go forward. By observing the lines and dimensions of the pieces I am able to create vivid landscapes and fluid architectural forms. I am fascinated by the idea of creating an overwhelming sense of something that is so overpowering that one cannot comprehend its boundaries. This sensation can be translated into a piece by following a line, and using rhythm, balance, tension or colour.’
In her new series of vessels for Glyndebourne, Gomez combines the best aspects of her practice. There are small, squat pots with gritty surfaces, inky black and lipped with gold, and more tactile works too - bone coloured and smooth, to be warmed in your hand. Other works, domed and bowed, are shiny and lucid, the clay gleaming with colour as if dipped in lustrous water. Each one speaks to Gomez’s connection to Sussex, ‘Living in Lewes for the last decade has allowed the surrounding to slowly seep into me. My coloured vessels have subtly changed with a stronger undulation at the top. This accentuating of the top lip can be seen in the soft dips of the hills around. Walking on some of the ridges nearby there are fantastic views that pan across the flatland and this is where the colours and textures of the vessel South Downs has derived from. It has been a reflective time choosing the vessels for Glyndebourne and made me realise how connected I am to this special landscape.’
Nerissa Taysom - Curator