Angell (b.1987 Kent) works primarily with ceramics, producing sculptural tableaux referencing hobbyist cultures, naturalistic forms, and the underground hand built ceramics of Britain from the 1970s and 80s. Although often appearing deliberately amateurish, Angell utilises a highly skilled production process for his sculptures, making use of glazing techniques that are both antique and state-of-the-art.
Angell is interested in marginal forms of image making and hopes to encourage new ways of thinking about the culturally nuanced history of ceramics by focusing on the material as a vehicle for sculpture. This exhibition comes at a time when folk and craft practices are finding increasing relevance and appreciation in the UK. Angell is eager to contribute to a wider understanding of ceramics within an artistic framework that sits outside a traditional craft-based discourse. In his own words Angell wants to ‘flatten the material’, looking beyond the medium to view the works as autonomous sculptures, and rehabilitating ceramics not as a material suffused with its own history, but as one of pragmatism, economy, and intuition.
For his Studio Voltaire commission, Angell presents his most ambitious body of work to date. Angell demonstrates the variety of his practice by experimenting with a range of previously unexplored materials and processes to produce new works in cork, welded aluminium and painted steel, including two giant steel sculptures based on vernacular dog-chew designs, as well as a new series of paintings. The large vaulted gallery space has been rigged with mustard-coloured short awnings in plain tweed, which form a display system for Angell’s sculptures. The awnings feature embroidered imagery that stems from research surrounding plant fossils, amongst other concerns.
In the artist’s own words, the exhibition is ‘mostly about the chalk horse at Cherhill and its connections with my ancestor Farmer Angell, the only four magnolia seed fossils ever found in England, D.M. Black’s poem Without Equipment and Bram Stoker’s awful final novel The Lair of the White Worm’. Angell is interested in manipulating imagery from a ‘psychic compost’ in which elements are rejected, fermented and rotted down to form a dense stream of co-dependent motifs. In this case, material ranges from references to a glass eye installed by a ‘Farmer Angell’ on a chalk geoglyph in Wiltshire, to the non-human minds of the ancient magnolia grove that was Mesozoic Croydon. Present too are literary references to psychedelic poetry about pipes, organs and underground laboratories as well as turgid Victorian fiction in which a giant serpent from the novel seems to negatively affect the author’s prose as the text drags on.
Steel plant stand-like structures in the centre of the room act as another display structure for works, which include defunct museum hygrothermographs, cork sculptures and metal works – almost botanically displayed in a system of sculptural taxonomy.
Grotwork is a colloquial term referring to the 18th Century horticultural trend of accumulating Stucco and imported Italian Tufa to produce artificial grottoes. Grotwork also acts as an allegory of Angell’s practice, as one of systematic accretion and editing, and as a physical allegory to his reverse-painted glasses, which are painted via hundreds of flecked layers of paint.
About the artist:
Aaron Angell, born 1987 in Kent, lives and works in London. Recent solo shows include Bumpkin, Rob Tufnell (2012); Put John Barleycorn in the old brown jug,Croy Nielsen Berlin (2012); and The Devil’s Arse, SPACE (2011). Forthcoming exhibitions include: British Art Show 8, Leeds Art Gallery, October 2015; and Tate St Ives, summer 2016.
Angell is the founder and director of Troy Town Art Pottery hosted by Open School East, a radical and psychedelic ceramic workshop for artists founded in response to dwindling ceramics access in London, and to frustration with the established models of ceramic production. Angell is represented by Rob Tufnell, London.
Angell was awarded the Hospitalfield Autumn Residency 2014, funded by Creative Scotland under their Creative Futures strand. Angell used this residency and production bursary to prepare for his Studio Voltaire commission. This commission is supported by Arts Council England, Grants for the arts; The Henry Moore Foundation; and Hospitalfield Arts.