9 February to 4 March 2023

Floor 1, 6-8 Vestry St, London, N1 7RE

Exhibition Details
Cross Lane Projects presents a curated exhibition of new and existing work by ceramic artists: Lawson Oyekan and Nicola Tassie.

Ceramics continues to enjoy renewed status in galleries and art fairs, and the variety of work represented in these contexts is getting broader and more nuanced. Cross Lane Gallery is one of several contemporary galleries showcasing an exciting mix of clay work at the moment, positioning what perhaps previously would have been seen as ‘pottery’ in dialogue with more conceptual art works. It’s an exciting time to be working with clay; the age-old argument between the hierarchy of craft and art feels less relevant, with work increasingly being exhibited in relation to each other, rather than in competition.

Nicola Tassie began her career as a painter but turned to ceramics in the 1980s, setting up one of the first ceramic studios in London. Her work expands across two main themes: exquisitely thrown functional ware that distils her sense of design and form and composed sculptural assemblages that play with and stretch our understandings of the ceramic object. The work made for London Art Fair sees her methodology take on new narratives: vessel-like or pebbled forms stacked and clustered together in walls and totems. There’s a direct conversation between the contemporary design that informs these arrangements and the ancient mountains, stone circles and dry-stone walls of the landscape.

Where Tassie’s work was chosen to represent a design approach that is deeply informed by her painterly origins, Lawson is much more spiritual in his approach. Seeking to offer a message of reassurance, of connection to light in the dark, the humped forms speak of human endurance and ability to heal. Often grouped in threes, they reference spirituality, with clay as the substance of creation and the many creation myths which have clay as a central theme (even Western science backs up the notion that the biochemicals that made life on Earth originated in clay). Their larger-than-life scale life on Earth originated in clay). Their larger-than-life scale forces the viewer to confront them, their perforated surfaces scratched with philosophical musings and poetry in Yoruba and English; through this confrontation, this questioning, Oyekan hopes that healing can begin.

These two artists will be brought together through a single material that explores the uniqueness of human existence. Through it, they connect not only with each other, but also to a global history of material culture.

“Dual presentation of ceramic works by Lawson Oyekan (b.1961), a British Nigerian based in France, and Nicola Tassie, who established her studio in Hoxton in the 1980s. Oyekan’s work derives from his training in porcelain wheel throwing and the development of his own techniques through hand-building to make larger, monolithic forms. Characterised by surfaces often left dry and unglazed, his open, thin-walled works seem covered in scars and resemble ancient spiritual vessels. By contrast, Tassie’s Follies Series III are playful structures made up of an accumulation of randomly thrown vessels that are repurposed into non-designed towers of glazed pots. Named after a line from Erasmus ‘In Praise of Folly’ (translation by John Wilson) “, Folly praises herself endlessly arguing that life would be dull and distasteful without her”, whilst gorgeous they also replicate a massing of household’s domestic ware, stacked up for storage in diminishing space. These Follies cleverly illustrate the eternal allure of overconsumption: seductive, aspirational in their reach, but uncertain about their purpose.”Artlyst

About the artists

LAWSON OYEKAN (b.1961) is a British Nigerian contemporary ceramic sculptor.  A recurrent theme within his work is the physical drama of nature’s complexity and his monumental ceramic installations are usually the result of an encounter with a particular place.  Oyekan’s imposing compositions celebrate the power of nature to inspire contemplation, renewal, and transformation, whilst also reflecting his concerns about its destruction as a result of human foibles.

NICOLA TASSIE (b.1960) is a London based ceramicist whose work integrates the traditions of studio pottery, with a conceptual and material exploration of the nature and function of form and aesthetics. Tassie has created a new body of work specifically for this show that confronts the relationship between the interior domestic scene and exterior landscape. Familiar domestic pots are piled up and arranged into larger scale works that specifically reference dry-stone walls, steppingstones, and gateways.  Serving as both boundaries and entries, the works suggest ideas of containment and aspiration, and the contested definition between craft and art.

Images left to right: (1) Nicola Tassie: Samian: Totemic Structures Series II, 2023, glazed stoneware and enamel, 131 x 30cm, photography by William Papworth. (2) Lawson Oyekan: Body Undivided, 1996, Sandstone Clay, 50 x 50 x 50cm, photography by Mark Woods. (3) Soda: Totemic Structure, 2022, glazed stoneware, 153 x 30cm, photography by Rebecca Larkin. (4) Lawson Oyekan: Body Undivided III, 1997, english porcelain, 51 x 25 x 25cm, photography by Mark Woods.  All works copyright the artists.