VASE: Function Reviewed at the National Craft Gallery

Posted 29.06.16

                                                                                                                                                                                                             Derek Wilson, Vases, Ceramic

“I have always loved the word VASE, its double pronunciation, and with it, its reference to place and class. Within the world of craft and design, this same small word is even more charged and divisive. It’s seldom found within contemporary ceramics, where the less functional word ‘vessel’ is almost always used. I wanted to curate an exhibition that would embrace the functional, examine its history and explore its boundaries.” Brian Kennedy, Curator

Ever since the Grecian Urn, the vase has a tradition as a container of narrative and vehicle for storytelling. This new exhibition looks at how contemporary artists are still addressing issues of the personal and the political within and on their work. Curated by Brian Kennedy, VASE: Function Reviewed will be at the National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny from 6th August to 6th November 2016 and forms part of the programme for Kilkenny Arts Festival 2016.

Ceramics play a huge part in all our daily lives. We wash from a ceramic sink, drink our morning tea or coffee from a ceramic mug, eat from a ceramic dish and when we want to cheer up a room we put flowers in a ceramic vase. Many contemporary artists take these daily objects and rituals and investigate them through their work. This exhibition focuses on the vase, an object we all have in our lives, and looks at it through the eyes of the artist.

VASE: Function Reviewed debates issues of functionality in ceramics through a series of works by Irish and international artists. The exhibition showcases a range of objects, from the consciously matching to the gloriously mismatched, the proudly ‘functional’ to the emphatically ‘dysfunctional’, the ‘useful’ and the ‘useless’. It offers a lively and stimulating debate on form versus function within contemporary ceramics and encourages an animated debate on hierarchies within contemporary ceramics, making us look anew at the objects that surround us.

Featuring 29 artists from Europe, Africa and Asia, VASE: Function Reviewed places work by Irish artists such as Sara Flynn, Alison Kay and Derek Wilson within a broader international context. The exhibition also includes work by Kate Malone, one of the judges from The Great British Throw Down TV series, Babs Haenen, one of the best regarded Dutch ceramists and Hwang Kap Sun, an emerging Korean maker with recent shows in Paris and Geneva. Visitors can also enjoy the work of Carol McNicoll, Alison Britton and Janice Tchalenko - 3 of the 5 women that are credited with changing the direction of studio ceramics in the 1970s. Details of all featured artists can be viewed at Presenting a wide range of approaches from the functional to the more sculptural/abstract, this exhibition provides an insight into the issues and concerns addressed by contemporary artists through clay.

VASE: Function Reviewed debuts at the National Craft Gallery in Kilkenny from 6th August to 6th November 2016 and plans are being developed to tour the exhibition during 2017. A comprehensive programme of events and activities has been planned to coincide with exhibition’s run. Opening hours at the National Craft Gallery: Tuesday – Saturday: 10am - 5.30pm |Sundays and Bank Holidays: 11am - 5.30pm | Closed Mondays. Admission is free.

Artists featured in VASE: Function Reviewed

Heidi Bjørgan

Belgium UK
Anne Marie Laureys Felicity Aylieff
  Alison Britton
Greece Natasha Daintry
Agalis Manessi Philip Eglin
  Tanya Gomez
Ireland Nicholas Lees
Mike Byrne Kate Malone
Helen Doherty Carol McNicoll
Sara Flynn Susan Nemeth
Alison Kay Janice Tchalenko
Grainne Watts Peter Ting
Derek Wilson Jonathan Wade
  Andrew Wicks
Akiko Hirai Korea
Hitomi Hosono Deok Ho Kim
  Hwang Kap Sun
The Netherlands  
Babs Haenen South Africa
  Ruan Hoffman
Norway Lucinda Mudge
Heidi Bjorgan  













(For the latest information on all events, visit

Curator’s Talk - Sat 6 August at 3pm
Curator Brian Kennedy in dialogue with a selection of the featured artists

Drop-in Workshop, Sat 6 + Sun 7 August, 12.30pm – 4.30pm
Clay Collections with Caroline Getty, Amy Mackle and Ashley Sheppard

Children’s Workshops, Tues 9 – Wed 11 August, 2pm, 3pm, 4pm
Geometric Shapes with Mary Conroy
Clay Creatures with Brid Lyons
Vivid Vases with Kate Murtagh Sheridan
One workshop per child, to book call 056 775 2175 (lines open from 7 July)

Meet the Maker part of Heritage Week, Thurs 25 August, 6.30pm
Traditional Skills Contemporary Approach with Mike Byrne

Primary School Workshops, Thurs 8 + Fri 9 September, 10am + 11.30am
Function & Form with Maeve Sookram

Primary & Secondary School Tours, Tues 13 September – Fri 28 October
Guided Gallery Visits exploring Design and Making

Verdant Vessels, Thurs 15 – Wed 21 September and Thurs 22 – Wed 28 September
Sculptural Arrangements by Master Florist Lamber de Bie

Culture Night Throwdown, Fri 16 September, 5pm – 10pm, highlights include:
Talk: Flowers & Form Brian Kennedy in conversation with Lamber de Bie
Music: Electric Ceramophone with Rory Grubb
Demo: Raku Barrel Firing with Jane Seymour
Workshop: Pinched Vessels with Maeve Sookram

Adult Workshops, Wed 21 September + Wed 5 October, 10.30am
Drawing as Research with Inga Reed

Family Day Workshops, Sat 8 October, 10.30am + 12noon
Nature Shapes in Clay with Laura McNamara

About the curator
Brian Kennedy is an independent curator working predominantly in the craft and applied art area. Between 2002 and 2010 he curated a series of major exhibitions for the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland, including “Forty Shades of Green” at the Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork and “Crafted Creatures” in conjunction with The Ark – A Cultural Centre for Children, Dublin. Following this, he curated the highly acclaimed exhibitions, “Material Poetry” and “Dubh – Dialogues in Black” at the American Irish Historical Society, New York. More recently Brian worked closely with Contemporary Applied Arts, London on the move to their new gallery and developed a series of exhibitions for the first year of their programming. In 2014 he curated the critically acclaimed exhibition “Vase Vessel Void” for the Oliver Sears Gallery. Other notable projects are Walpole’s “Crafted - Makers of Excellence” exhibitions at Somerset House, London in 2013 and at the Royal Academy, London in 2014. In 2015 he curated Taste - Contemporary Craft Exhibition at Art Geneva and a major exhibition for the Oliver Sears Gallery in London. Brian works with state agencies, museums, galleries and private collectors to develop strategies, organise exhibitions and build collections within the craft and applied art areas.

About the National Craft Gallery
Established by the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland in 2000, the National Craft Gallery is Ireland’s leading centre for contemporary craft and design. It exhibits Irish and international designers, artists and makers who push boundaries in their engagement with the making process. Its mission is to inspire appreciation, creativity and innovation and it plays a critical role in building understanding of craft and material culture in Ireland.

About the Kilkenny Arts Festival
The programme for the 43rd Kilkenny Arts Festival, one of Europe’s finest artistic celebrations will run from 5-14 August, ten days of artistic adventures await in Ireland’s medieval city. At its core, the Festival will feature Ireland’s largest-ever celebration of Mozart, an epic musical journey featuring some of the world’s most renowned musicians, with lots more to enjoy and explore including a world-famous travelling theatre ensemble, unique global music collaborations with legendary artists from three continents, a master painter at work in his studio, an acclaimed poet in residence, dazzling bands and singer-songwriters, leading international thinkers, eerie night time aerial dance theatre, secret garden music, performance, family adventures and much more… Many celebrated artists from near and far will gather in Kilkenny including Stephen Rea, Footsbarn Theatre, Ricky Skaggs, Loudon Wainwright III, Sir András Schiff, Villagers, Martin Hayes, Maighread & Tríona Ní Dhomhnaill, Christian Blackshaw, Alina Ibragimova, Mark Padmore, Heath Quartet, Mick O’Dea, Paul Muldoon, Irish Chamber Orchestra, Gábor Takács-Nagy, Jörg Widmann and more.

About the Design & Crafts Council of Ireland
The Design & Crafts Council of Ireland (DCCoI) is the main champion of the design and craft industry in Ireland, fostering its growth and commercial strength, communicating its unique identity and stimulating quality design, innovation and competitiveness. DCCoI's activities are funded by the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation via Enterprise Ireland. DCCoI currently has 64 member organisations and over 3,200 registered clients. In collaboration with partner organisations, DCCoI convened Irish Design 2015 (ID2015) on behalf of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise & Innovation, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and Enterprise Ireland. ID2015 was a year-long programme exploring, promoting and celebrating Irish design through signature events on the island of Ireland as well as in prestigious partner venues in international capitals of design and commerce throughout 2015.

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