Art in nature

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Hull-based ceramic artist Adele Howitt’s latest exhibition of large-scale sculptures explores living landscapes in clay. Yvette Huddleston reports.

An exhibition of ceramic work by Hull-based artist Adele Howitt goes on display at the 20-21 Visual Arts Centre tomorrow, with one of the pieces in the show to be exhibited at the Taiwan Biennale later in the summer.

“I’m really excited about that because the Biennale invites entrants from around the world,” says Howitt whose collection Ceramic Landscape features seven large-scale sculptures which she describes as “drawings in clay”.

Howitt began her training at Leeds College of Art where, she says, she and her fellow students were steered away from ceramics. “At that time is was considered to be a craft, not an art form, although that attitude has changed over the years, but I was always interested in it. You can really do anything in clay. The only thing that restricts you is your imagination. There are so many different aspects to clay and so many different types – plus you can make things that are decorative or functional. It is so versatile.”

Howitt then went on to study at Chelsea College of Art. “I did a course that was called art for architectural spaces, looking at ways to incorporate art into the environment and then I did an MA in Public Art.” This interest in art within, and in relation to, its surroundings, has continued to be a feature of Howitt’s art practice. She was very much involved with Hull’s bid to become city of culture, which included proposing a culture project to introduce an art and ecology permanent installation route across the city. One idea was ‘car gardens’, filling scrapped cars with plants, to create a temporary living landscape. These were premiered at the Freedom Festival in Hull during the campaign.

She also runs Studio 11, a gallery and studio space in Hull which she set up in 2009 with fellow artist Rob Moore. As well as an exhibition programme featuring contemporary artists, both local and from outside the region, there are regular ceramic and printmaking workshops.

The concept for Howitt’s latest series of sculptures was sparked while she was a resident artist at Naturalia in Sevillia in 2012 during which she researched pollen grains at Cordoba University. “Looking at the grains under the microscope, I started to think more about living landscapes and natural patterns,” she says. “I have always been interested in ways of incorporating nature and landscape into ceramics.” The pieces themselves are at once intricate, delicate and robust. “It takes me about a month to make each piece,” explains Howitt. “I start off with a drawing and then make that into a 3D form and then scale that up.”

Howitt has also recently been involved in developing a Hornsea Pottery Trail to celebrate the famous East Yorkshire pottery which operated between 1949 and 2000. “I was contacted last year and asked to put together a concept for a trail,” says Howitt.

“It has been a really interesting project. I have been working with the Hornsea Folk Museum which has a large collection of Hornsea pottery and looking at how we could move the collection into a high street setting to lead people around Hornsea. It has been great to find out more about the history of the pottery and have access to all those lovely designs.”

Ceramic Landscape, 20-21 Visual Arts Centre, Scunthorpe June 18-September 3. ‘Meet the artist’ event, June 25, 1-3pm. www.studioeleven.co.uk