We are delighted to announce that Neil Brownsword and Tana West are the winners of the first Whitegold International Ceramic Prize.
Neil Brownsword will receive £10,000 plus £5,000 to produce a new piece of artwork for St Austell.
Alchemy and Metamorphosis
Neil Brownsword, Externalising the Archive, installation at Spode Works, Stoke-on-Trent for the British Ceramics Biennial, 2019. Image: Cristian Barnett, courtesy of Ceramic Review
Through film, installation and public interaction, Neil Brownsword’s proposed project will explore the intimate connections that exist between the entangled histories of St Austell and Stoke-on-Trent.
For more than two centuries, the industrial histories of the two places have been intertwined through the traditions of china clay production and ceramics. Both regions bear within their landscape the physical effects of industry, and recent economic and social transitions due to global competition and the outsourcing of skilled labour.
Brownsword aims to reconnect audiences to the physicality of raw materials, their geological origins and wider cultural contexts, together with systems of labour, tools and technologies that helped to define the success of these industrial regions.
“I’m fascinated by these two industries; their parallel connection to clay as a material, and the ‘alchemic’ processes that turns this inert matter into objects which enhance our daily lives. Through this project, I will draw upon a range of historic tools associated ceramic production and clay extraction, to reanimate actions and forgotten processes. As the digital continues to revolutionise production, the ‘knowledge of the hand’ is becoming increasingly lost. I’m hoping to reassign a sense of value to these more traditional systems of knowledge back into contemporary consciousness.”
“Communities were established around these industries – livelihoods were built on the extraction and transformation of raw materials. As they have downsized in recent decades, there exists a sense of detachment from these histories. I want to explore new ways to reactivate connections that have shaped the identity of place, through artistic process and participation.”
Neil Brownsword, Details of Externalising the Archive, installation at Spode Works, Stoke-on-Trent for the British Ceramics Biennial, 2019. Image: Cristian Barnett, courtesy of Ceramic Review
Brownsword will create a multi-media installation that draws on these physical environments and the obscure aesthetics of the production processes. An interactive element of the project will encourage people to creatively explore clay in its raw states and celebrate these histories in new and unexpected ways.
Tana West will receive £5,000 plus £2,500 to produce a new piece of work for St Austell.
West aims to construct a large circular panorama inspired by clay country. Her inspiration came from the panoramic wallpaper that hung in the White Hart Hotel in St Austell when it opened in 1822. The scene depicted the Bay of Naples, reflecting the prosperity and global links of the early traders in china clay. The wallpaper was made by Dufour and Sons and was donated to the Victoria and Albert Museum in the 1930s.
Detail of Dufour & Cie grisaille wallpaper, originally hung in the dining room of The White Hart Hotel, St Austell Cornwall in 1822 and given by St Austell Brewery to the V&A in the 1930’s. © Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
West’s new panorama will be made up of a number of panels created from local clay made to resemble wallpaper. She will open conversations with local people through informal activities such as workshops and walks. Through these conversations, she will gather ideas for important landmarks to include in the scene.
“China clay is important for its use in ceramics, but I was interested to learn that the majority of it is used in the paper industry. Through my research for this project, I came across an account of the wallpaper which hung in the White Hart Hotel.
“I’m interested in how local materials create a particular effect that is special to that place. For example, the original pink hue of the Financial Times newspaper came from the unbleached china clay from Bodelva Pit. Lots of English 19th century wallpapers used mica – a by-product of china clay extraction – to achieve a lustre effect.
“When it was created, the original panorama was the height of fashion and depicted St Austell as the bustling growth town it was then. I want to use this pre-cinema idea of the spectacle to create a panorama of the things that are important about this place for people today. I will gather ideas through their stories – when someone tells you a story about something it will seep into what you’re doing.”
Whitegold Co-curator Katie Bunnell said:
“The Whitegold Prize brings internationally recognised artists to the region to develop new work with local community at its heart. The two prize winners were selected from a very strong shortlist by an experienced team of jurors. We’re looking forward to seeing how the artists’ ideas develop over the coming months, and how the local community respond to this creative exploration of the area’s industrial past.”
The winning artists are currently working with Whitegold curators to develop the fine detail of their proposals. The work created will be part of the Whitegold Festival on 19 September 2020.