Ancient and Modern by Renee So

An exhibition of new ceramic and textile works by Renee So, created during a residency at West Dean College. From Saturday 28 September until Sunday 12 January 2020 at De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill on Sea, Sussex.

Just a week ago today, I was on my way to Sussex for work and pleasure. I hadn’t been back there in centuries, years. But Sussex is a place of memories and also the county where my son was born just ten years ago, but I never put root down there, and James never really lived by the sea in Sussex. But we promised a visit. And so, taking advantage of an appointment and of a Friday family time … during half term… we ventured out all together… and then we decided to stop in Bexhill on Sea. For coincidence the De La Warr Pavilion is hosting an exhibition of a ceramicist and artist … well known and awarded : Renee So… and then I had the chance to visit her amazing exhibition Ancient and Modern… Here’s what they say about the exhibition…
Happy reading.

Renee So’s exhibition is comprised of an entirely new body of work. It includes hand-woven textiles, furniture, and ceramic works that refer to representations of the female figure in prehistoric cultures. A tiled mural is based on the Egyptian goddess of the night, Nut, her body bent in a yoga-like pose in order to provide shelter to the earth; other ceramic sculptures are reminiscent of pre-Columbian figurines of Venus. These continue So’s on-going investigation into ceramic vessels that people across the world have made to drink and eat out of for thousands of years.

Pottery and textiles represent some of the earliest forms of material culture. So uses imagery found within these histories to make gently satirical commentary on contemporary social codes and power structures. By using traditional craft techniques such as weaving, knitting and pottery, Renee So addresses the hierarchy between craft and art; the former is traditionally seen as women’s work – less serious, domestic, invisible and un-authored – while the latter is still often associated with the idea of the (historically white and male) lone genius.

Renee So’s exhibition is one of several projects taking place at the De La Warr Pavilion throughout the year that mark the centenary of the Bauhaus School, founded in Germany in 1919. One of the most important art schools of the 20th century, Bauhaus teachers and students believed in the integration of design, technology, craft and fine arts into daily life. So is especially interested in the legacy of female makers of the Bauhaus, many of whom are lesser known than their male counterparts, and who were often pushed towards craft practices within the school. So’s new pieces also refer to Anni and Josef Albers’ collection of pre-Columbian figurines and textiles, a collection that reveals the influence of non-Western culture on the modernist movement.

This exhibition emerges from a residency initiated by the De La Warr Pavilion and West Dean College of Arts and Conservation. Renee So was selected from an international open call that offered an artist time, space and facilities for making new work, as well as access to a variety of resources and facilities, including the historic West Dean House and the College’s collections and archives.

Photo credits: De La Warr Pavilion and Renee So.

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