In January 2016, Studio 3 Gallery will exhibit works by Grete Marks (1899 – 1990), a Bauhaus-trained ceramicist and artist who established the successful German pottery factory Haël Werkstatten in 1923, but was forced to sell her business and eventually flee the country following Nazi persecution and the designation of her work as ‘degenerate’ (entartete). Marks immigrated to England in 1936 to try to establish herself in the potteries of Stoke-on-Trent, but never managed to replicate her commercial success in her adopted country.
Biographies of Marks present her creative career as neatly cut in two: her pre-1936 ceramics, and the relatively unknown paintings that she made in exile until her death. The few exhibitions of her work that have been organised posthumously have similarly focused on one period or the other. Having been granted access to the family’s archive of paintings, drawings and ceramics dating from the 1919–1990, this exhibition will seek to present a more nuanced understanding of Marks’ disrupted and difficult career.
Screening alongside with work will be Laure Prouvost’s Turner Prize-winning video work Wantee. In this strange, unsettling, and inescapably funny fifteen-minute piece, Prouvost imagines a version of iconic German Dadaist artist Kurt Schwitters’ final years in the Lake District. Schwitters, whose work was also declared degenerate, ended up settling in England where he supported himself by painting still-lifes and portraits. Prouvost examines this legacy by telling us of her fictional and absent grandfather, a former conceptual artist and friend of Schwitters, and questions the implications of a displaced avant-garde. This work was originally made in partnership with Grizedale Arts for the 2013 exhibition Schwitters in Britain at Tate Britain.
Early in their careers Marks and Schwitters were known for their innovative and avant-garde work. This exhibition will explore what happens when philosophical ideals can no longer be put into practice, and how the impulse to create and to work can persist in the wake of unspeakable tragedies.