Expanding Scale and Surface in Contemporary Ceramics
Submitting InstitutionRoyal College of Art
Unit of AssessmentArt and Design: History, Practice and Theory
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies
History and Archaeology: Curatorial and Related Studies, Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
Research into properties of scale and surface undertaken by ceramicist
Felicity Aylieff has achieved substantial national and international
impact in cultural life and education since 1996. The research leads to
significant innovations in ceramics, especially in the areas of monumental
sculptures and translation of traditional techniques to contemporary use.
These are realised in a body of work and dissemination by public speaking,
exhibitions and publications. Through innovative international
collaborative projects, the established separation between studio ceramics
and industry has been bridged globally.
Formative research undertaken by Aylieff at the Royal College of Art
(RCA), The Elusive Body 1996 [s3.1], challenged the firmly entrenched
canons embedded in studio ceramics and opened the way for innovative
developments in the area of scale. Methodical testing led to the
development of large-scale press-moulding techniques, clay aggregates, and
ceramic colour editions of clay bodies to create specific visual
qualities. The work was shown in a major solo exhibition `Sense and
Perception' (Manchester City Art Gallery, 2002), toured to Bath and
Cumbria (2003), and was reviewed widely [s3.2].
In 2006, Aylieff became the first ceramicist to undertake a series of
extended residencies at the Experimental Factory in Jingdezhen, China, a
city of historical significance for its porcelain development. She
initially collaborated with highly skilled artisans at a manufactory
recognised for making traditional monumental vessels for the Chinese
market, to investigate properties of scale and surface. As an extension of
this project, Aylieff was selected for an exhibition and organised a
related international symposium on aesthetic, historical, cultural, and
technical aspects of porcelain [s3.3]. Original research during her second
residency into the traditional Chinese soft-colour technique of fencai, a
low-fired on-glaze enamel technique with strong visual and tactile
qualities, led to the development of a European interpretation of this
unique technique. The results of this research — a series of monumental fencai
decorated pieces — were exhibited in London [s3.4 and s3.5].
Building on her research into the traditional blue and white porcelain
produced in Jingdezhen, Aylieff was awarded a residency in 2010 at Royal
Delft, the only remaining traditional factory in the Netherlands. By
combining collections research in museums and studio practice in a factory
context Aylieff developed new surface patterns, translating the
conventional blue and white imagery into contemporary plate designs. One
research outcome was a solo exhibition at Galerie Terra Delft (2011)
[s3.6], which explored the connections between Aylieff's work in
Jingdezhen and Delft.
From 2012-13, Aylieff extended her investigation into the blue and white
aesthetic and questions of scale through a series of monumental porcelain
sculptures commissioned for the Tornado Tower (QIPCO Tower) in Doha, Qatar
[s3.7]. The project involved extensive study into the decorative language
of Islamic pattern and was informed by the history of the trade of cobalt
blue between the Middle East, China, and Europe, which Aylieff researched
using the collections of the Islamic Museum in Qatar and the British
Museum. Aylieff conducted exhaustive testing to create a contemporary
equivalent to Islamic cobalt blue colouring. The project also demanded
investigations into prototyping, firing and assembling the internal
supporting structures for monumental pieces of up to 4.5 metres high.
References to the research
The outputs listed below have been subjected to critical and professional
judgement following the criteria of excellence in the applied arts. The
venues in the UK and overseas are of national and international
significance for the discipline of creative and applied arts curation.
Panel review and critical reception of works are standard and conform to
peer review processes. All references cited below are available on request
to the HEI and cross-references to Aylieff's REF 2 Outputs are given under
3.5, 3.6 and 3.7 below.
3.1) Felicity Aylieff, The Elusive Body (Unpublished MPhil thesis, RCA,
3.2) Sense and Perception (Solo exhibition, catalogue, touring
exhibition, educational programme, resource exhibition room, video and
published educational slide pack, 2002-3). Funded by Arts Council England
(National Touring Programme, £12,000); Manchester Metropolitan University.
Reviewed in Ceramic Review (2002), 197; Crafts (2003), 180; AN for Artists
(2003); Telegraph Magazine (2003). Works acquired by Crafts Council,
Contemporary Arts Society, Birmingham Museum and Art Galleries, Manchester
3.3) `White Gold' (Curated exhibition and symposium, 2006). Funded by
Daiwa Anglo-Japanese Foundation; Royal College of Art. Reviewed in Crafts
3.4) Out of China: Monumental Porcelain (Exhibition, book, DVD, reviews,
article, workshop, artist talk, 2007-9). Funded by Arts Council England
(£21,578). Reviewed in Crafts (2007), 209; Ceramic Review (2007), 229; La
Revue de la Céramique et du Verre (2008), 158.
3.5) `Working to Scale' (Solo exhibition, catalogue, lecture:
Contemporary Applied Arts, London, 2009) and `Contemporary Craft Comes to
No. 10' (Group exhibition, No. 10 Downing Street, London, 2009). CCA
catalogue funded by Arts Council England. Aylieff REF2 Output 1 and 4.
3.6) `Out of Delft/Out of China' (Artist in residence, industry
collaboration, catalogue and film, 2010-11) and `Felicity Aylieff' (Solo
exhibition, 2010-11). Featured in `Brandpunt Terra 2011' catalogue.
Artist's residency documentary film Out of Delft produced by Stitchting
Keramiek Promotie, Brandpunt Terra, and Galerie Terra Delft; directed by
Sara Verweij. Reviewed in Crafts (2011); Klei Keramisch: KLEI (2011).
Aylieff REF2 Output 2.
3.7) Felicity Aylieff, `Three Monumental Sculptures' for Tornado Tower
(QIPCO Tower), Doha, Qatar (2013). Plans and designs available on request
from the HEI. Aylieff REF2 Output 3.
Details of the impact
Impact 1: Cultural Life: A ceramic artist of international
standing, Aylieff bridges fine and applied art by showing monumental work
in public settings and museums, contributing to cultural life and
education. Since 1994, Aylieff's research, as cited in Sections 2 and 3,
has resulted in 26 solo exhibitions and work has been selected for 98
group shows. There have been 31 publications (catalogue essays, profiles,
reviews) about the work. Funding for projects has come from a variety of
sources, including the Arts Council [s5.1]. At least an estimated 140,944+
visitors have seen the work in the exhibitions listed in this case study.
The impact of Aylieff's research as cited in Section 2 is best represented
by three exhibitions with high visitor figures, `Sense and Perception'
(46,369+ visitors), `Out of China: Monumental Porcelain' (46,590+
visitors) and `White Gold — Contemporary Porcelain from Jingdezhen'
(37,469+ visitors) [s5.2].
In 2002, Manchester City Art Gallery commissioned Aylieff to launch its
exhibition programme in new galleries with `Sense and Perception' [see
s3.2]; this exhibition drew an estimated visitor figure of over 30,000. It
resulted in six purchases from public institutions, including the Crafts
Council and Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery [s5.3]. `Out of China:
Monumental Porcelain' [see s3.4] (2007-9) was an Arts Council
England-funded touring show that comprised site-specific work on an
extreme scale (three metres high), a size not normally associated with
porcelain. This project was significant for its cross-fertilisation
between Eastern and Western traditions, techniques, processes, and
contemporary idioms. It reached a wide audience and was shown at One
Canada Square, Canary Wharf (2007) as well as numerous public galleries
(2008-9). The exhibition resulted in six acquisitions by public
institutions, including the Victoria and Albert Museum [s5.3] and received
major funding from Arts Council England [s5.1].
Exhibitions frequently lead to acquisitions by major museums, providing
an enduring legacy; 29 sculptural ceramic works have been obtained for
public collections [see s5.3]. `Her works were chosen for their daring yet
delicate reinterpretations of three types or styles for which Jingdezhen
was historically well-known' (Keeper of Applied Arts/Exhibition Curator,
The Fitzwilliam Museum [s5.2]). In the case of the recent acquisition of a
large-scale ceramic sculpture for the National Museum Wales, it was
suggested that the work `will offer our visitors a completely different
experience of contemporary ceramics' and that `the public impact of the
work was an important consideration from the outset of the acquisition
process' (Senior Curator of Applied Art, National Museum Wales [s5.4]).
Aylieff's research contributes to bridging cultural traditions in the
ceramics of Europe, the Middle and Far East. Her residency at Royal Delft
focused on the application of established techniques and contemporary
aesthetics of Delft blue and white ware, re-connecting the rich historical
and cultural traditions of the twinned cities of Delft and Jingdezhen
[s5.5]. Aylieff's collaboration with skilled ceramic workers at the
manufactory in Jingdezhen has shown how ceramic artists can successfully
produce works according to new aesthetic ideas [s5.6]. Her artist's
residency provided a model for other recognised figures from the world of
ceramics to take up similar positions [s5.6]. `Her activities have drawn
attention to our factory within Jingdezhen, as a factory that facilitates
artists and encourages experiment and as a consequence we have been host
to a number of international artists' (Owner of Zhen Shang San Bao
Factory, Jingdezhen [s5.6]).
Aylieff's research and practice involves meaningful exchanges between
artist-practitioner and manufacturer, as well as between countries with
different traditions. Aylieff has been described as `bridging the gap
between studio ceramics and industry'. The factory provided technical
expertise and support with production, and Aylieff provided contemporary
thinking in surface design and identified new potential for areas of
development to existing ranges' (Director, Terra Delft Gallery [s5.5]). In
Delft, Aylieff's residency and exhibition formed a significant event
within the citywide ceramic festival, `Bundapunt Terra'. The project also
had further longer term cultural impact on the city: `As a legacy of her
residency, Royal Delft has since invited a number of Chinese artists to
work in the factory, opening up an international dialogue' (Director,
Terra Delft Gallery [s5.5]).
Impact 2: Education: Through the dissemination of her research, as
cited in this case study, Aylieff has had a significant influence in the
field of ceramic education. Exhibiting widely, and showing her monumental
work in public and corporate settings, has meant that large numbers of
people have had access to it, often in the context of informal learning.
`I have introduced colleagues from the Museum's Education Department to
[Aylieff's piece] Still Life and they are extremely excited about its
potential for inspiring creativity, as well as generating interest back
into the historic porcelain collections' (Senior Curator of Applied Art,
National Museum Wales [s5.4]). Her work was `a clear point of interest and
conversation for the numerous visitors who viewed the exhibition, and was
used often by our docent and Gallery Instructor programs in their
educational endeavors' (Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts/'New Blue
and White' exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts Boston [s5.7]).
On the basis of her research, Aylieff has devised educational programmes
at every exhibition for a range of levels, from the general public to
specialists as an integral part of her research projects [s5.8]. These
outreach activities take the form of public presentations, demonstrations,
and lectures, as well as contributions to conferences and symposia. She
has managed the Discovery Programme of Ceramic Art London since its
inception in 2004. This is the leading international showcase for studio
ceramics, a free daily programme of talks, discussions, demonstrations and
films attended by up to 4,000 collectors, enthusiasts and new audiences
(Ceramic Art London Organiser [s5.8]).
Sources to corroborate the impact
Copies of all sources to corroborate the impact are available from the
HEI upon request. All URLs last accessed: 22/11/13.
5.1) Arts Council England, Confirmation of award, Grants for the Arts,
£21,578 for Felicity Aylieff, `Out of China', grant reference 8538563, 14
5.2) Letter from Keeper of Applied Arts/Exhibition Curator, The
Fitzwilliam Museum (dated 27/08/13).
5.3) Work in public and corporate collections:
2013 Museum of Fine Arts, Boston MA; V&A Museum, London; Cheltenham
2012 Museum of Wales, Cardiff
2011 Grassi Museum, Leipzig; Aberystwyth Arts Centre
2010 FIDELITY (also 2011); (QIPCO) Tornado Tower in Doha, Qatar
2009 Shipley Art Gallery, Gateshead
2008 V&A Museum, London; York Museum
2007 Stiftung Lotte Reimers, Deidesheim, Germany; Stiftung Petra Verberne
Venray, Netherlands; Museum für angewandte Kunst, Köln, Germany
2006 Duke of Devonshire, Chatsworth House (also 2008)
2005 Portsmouth City Museum; Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery
2004 Contemporary Art Society; Crafts Council Public Collection
2001 World Ceramic Centre, Korea (also 2003)
2000 V&A Museum, London
2000 Manchester Metropolitan University
1999 Keramikmuseum, Westerwald, Germany; Prior's Court School, Berkshire
1997 Auckland Museum, New Zealand
See also Felicity Aylieff CV and:
5.4) Letter from Senior Curator of Applied Art, National Museum Wales
5.5) Residency, exhibition and presentations: `Out of Delft', Galerie
Terra Delft, part of festival `Brandpunt Terra' 2011; and letter from
Director, Terra Delft Gallery (dated 10/08/13).
5.6) Letters from Owner of Zhen Shang San Bao Factory, Jingdezhen (dated
01/08/13); and Former Director, Pottery Workshop Experimental Factory,
Jingdezhen (dated 01/08/13).
5.7) Letter from Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts/`New Blue and
White' exhibition, Museum of Fine Arts Boston (20/09/13).
5.8) Letter from Ceramic Art London Organiser (dated 13/08/13).