Professor Neil Brownsword is the winner of Whitegold’s £10,000 Quartz Award and is currently working on a new artwork that will be on show at Whitegold Festival 2020.
For over two decades Neil’s internationally renowned artwork has examined Stoke-on-Trent’s post-industrial ceramic legacy, and the impact of the decline in the industry on place, people and artisanal knowledge. Through ongoing exploration of archives and use of living testimony, his work raises questions about the relevance of industrial craft skills that are now deemed outmoded or unviable for contemporary production. Neil draws attention to this largely unseen heritage and the need to recognise the relevance of these skills in contemporary contexts. His work takes the form of site specific installations that have been exhibited all over the world. Neil aims to highlight endangered craft practices and re-evaluate them through new forms of expression, often combining performance, film and the dynamics of hired labour.
For the Whitegold Prize, Neil is exploring the entangled histories of St Austell and Stoke-on-Trent and wants to bring the largely unseen working relationships between people, processes and material in the ceramic industry into public view. Through a new installation created for Whitegold 2020 Neil intends to reconnect audiences with the physicality of raw materials, their geological origins and wider cultural contexts as well as the tools and technologies that have been key to the success of both Stoke and St Austell. Neil will be running free public workshops at Wheal Martyn at the time of the Whitegold Festival where participants will be able to use the tools involved in the processing of china clay together with those used in the historic manufacture of bone china to make something new.
“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’s project is supported by Staffordshire University, Spode Museum Trust and Valentine Clays. Dates for Neil’s workshops at Wheal Martyn for the Whitegold Festival in September will be announced in the coming months.
Find out more about Neil Brownsword at
Instagram – @neilbrownsword
Twitter – @neil_brownsword