Edmund de Waal & Jacqui Poncelet at New Art Centre

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Last week, on a very rainy afternoon, I managed to get over to the New Art Centre near Salisbury to see some work by Edmund de Waal situated in the Orangery gallery. It is a beautifully lit space that perfectly suited the subtle shades and natural materials of these new pieces – collections of porcelain, gold, alabaster houses in rather lovely cases. I wasn’t able to stay long because there was a guided tour happening when I arrived so I headed across the grass to the Design House where there was a large retrospective featuring Jacqueline Poncelet, who taught me in the Ceramics dept at Camberwell School of Art back in the early 80s. Now and Then showcases the breadth of her skill and interests over thirty years. Not held back by specialising in a single discipline, she demonstrates to me that making with passion is what keeps ideas flowing.

The ceramics of the mid-1980s are what I am familiar with; sinuous sculptural work with complex surface texture and decoration. Bronze with Hair, 1988 then makes perfect sense alongside Handbag, 1985 (top left) and Object in 4 Parts, 1984 (top right) which is irresistibly tactile (I didn’t touch!), so the later work involving textiles is obvious.

Tartan, 1993/4 is a complex rug pieced with bits of carpet. A fascinating collection of offcuts reminding us of grandparents homes. Looking at the photo now, I realise that I didn’t give it enough attention last week, maybe because there was so much else happening around that part of the floor, it deserves a second look. Do we even look where we are walking? I was delighted to see the dress, shirts, and wallpaper designs, not only are they beautiful, quirky surface patterns but because I struggle to explain the many strands of media and materials that I love to use – having an interdisciplinary practice means it’s not so easy to pigeonhole or define. It looks like Jacqui doesn’t care – the woven blanket lying on a window sill (bottom left) inspired by her love of Welsh narrow loom blankets and developed during lockdown this year, is again beautifully intricate in its colourways and technique – and ‘as complicated as the countryside’ JP.

A year or two ago, while driving along the Westway flyover in London, I’m pretty sure I spotted a massive hoarding decorating or screening building work which was designed by Jacqui. Her ability to scale ideas up and down is something for me to consider in the future, in addition to not being concerned about limiting myself to specific areas of artistic output.

Untitled drawing, 1985

Working on large drawings would be a way to develop a new perspective on ideas.

Jacqueline Poncelet. Now and Then. New Art Centre at Roche Court.

Edmund de Waal. tacet. New Art Centre at Roche Court.

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