From Where I’m Standing


Claire Loder

Friends of SM&AG work to help Swindon Museum and Art Gallery in conserving and adding to the collection.

Friends committee members were fortunate enough to be invited to another wonderful private view evening. Thanks to the hard work and inspiration of curator Sophie Cummings this show brought together ten accomplished and renowned ceramicists who live and work in the locality.

Each artist chose a work from the collection which had either influenced them in the past or was completely new to them. For those who know the collection well it was an opportunity to see some of our favourite artworks anew and whatever our response this startling exhibition reignites that love in an intimate and personal way.

Although Friends never need an excuse to visit the gallery this show is really worth seeing along with ‘Still Life’ another new exhibition showing works from the collection in the south of the gallery.

Mark Golder and Brian Thompson alongside Sarah Purvey's work and Basil Beattie painting

Mark Golder and Brian Thompson alongside Sarah Purvey’s work and Basil Beattie painting

We are told that Fenella Elms first saw Peter Simpson’s ceramic work “Fungal Form” some twelve years ago in SMAG when she was a student studying ceramics at Swindon College. Simpson’s work is undated, but similar pieces in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection are dated from the period 1974-75.


According to Fenella, Simpson’s pot “found a place in my mind and so continues to make a presence in my work”. This may be so, but, to my mind, Fenella’s piece in this exhibition is far more complex – looking rather like a cross between a möbius strip and a model of a DNA double-helix. Somehow or other the work manages to be both simple and complex at the same time Fenella Elm’s work is quite small.

However, Patricia Volk works on a much larger scale. Her work is to be found at the far end of the room, to the left of the entrance and, even at that distance, the work manages to dominate the room. Patricia has produced a ceramic and wooden sculpture based on two paintings, “Gramophone” by Howard Hodgkin and “Buoys” by John Nash. The sculpture has three large ceramic forms set on a wooden table. Two pieces do resemble buoys, while the third piece resembles the central pink motif in Hodgkin’s abstract painting.


Thin green stripes around the three ceramic pieces merge with yellow stripes set on  the top of the grey striped table, under which is a lower table which is also painted yellow. It is a stunning artwork, made by one of our leading ceramic artists and I am grateful to have had the opportunity to see such a fine work.

Peter Hayes has also produced a large work, one based on the “Highworth” Roman pot that can be found in the Museum’s archaeological section. This is what Peter had to say, “As a schoolboy I spent many hours visiting museums, I was always drawn to the archaeological department, fascinated by simple terracotta pots expertly pieced together, made, lost and found and put in a place of importance. Seeing the ‘Highworth’ pot in Swindon’s collection inspired me to choose this piece as my inspiration for the exhibition.” In fact, Peter’s work is not a pot, but rather a metre high menhir, one which partly resembles the standing stones that can be found scatter throughout Wessex.


But, unlike our ancient standing stones, this work is brightly coloured and incorporates metal and glass in its construction. It is mounted on a black wooden museum stand, something that Peter uses on many of his smaller pieces.

Our final two artists, Mary-Jane Evans and Claire Loder, also incorporate metal into their works. Like Patricia Volk, Mary-Jane has selected an abstract painting as her starting point, but, unlike the Hodgkin painting, this one, “Painting 1” by Charles Howard, is far more restrained than the Hodgkin piece. Mary-Jane has produced four works, each standing on custom made, metal stands.


The pieces incorporate metal into their swirling forms, while some also appear to incorporate pieces of cloth onto their surfaces. They remind me of windblown landscapes, or perhaps boats being tossed around on the sea. They are full of trapped energy which is breaking out in all directions.

And this leaves only Claire Loder, whose work, initially a pair of staring ceramic and metal eyes, morph into a projected face, with words tumbling from the faces mouth. . .

Read the full exhibition review here:

The exhibition runs from 21 September 2016 – 28 January 2017

and is open Wednesday to Saturday from 11.00 am – 3.00 pm

For more information please visit the website:

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