I interviewed Somerset House studios resident Florence Peake about her current practice.
Pottery is, for the most part, practical. It has been made the world over for millenia: from the wide mouthed, combed surfaces of Jeulmun-era vessels in Korea to Ancient Rome’s glossy, umber fine wares. Earthenware was for most of time the primary means of cooking, storing, and serving food and drink. Perhaps because of this utilitarian idea, it also has a contemporary reputation as a polite art, and therefore, as Grayson Perry has frequently said, a deeply unfashionable one. But there is a sensual history to working with clay, too. Venus figurines — those fantastically bulbous, exaggerated objects — are thought by many historians to have served as fertility aids. Pottery then is also about the body: clay is kneaded, pots are pinched, and the necks of vases are elongated on the wheel. Potters talk about ‘the body of clay’.
Peake is railing against conservatism in her other, smaller, more intimate works too. Slug Horizons, for instance, is a work in which she and her partner Eve Stainton take turns painting each other’s vulvas, directly. She too is interested in the guttural mess, in the use of slimy substances — water-saturated clay, paint — to formally address the mess of the body, the mess of sex, and of sexuality. After the painting is over, with a small group of people formed around them, the couple exposes the inner life of their relationship. They begin to scissor and describe their fantasies to one another — your tongue reaches into my eye and comes out through my vagina — private eroticsm and sexuality made public.
Read the full piece here.