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A lot on their plate: Insects and Chinese art form the inspiration for charitable exhibition


Students, lecturers and invited artists at Robert Gordon University's Gray's School of Art in Aberdeen, have created an exhibition featuring over 65 hand-decorated ceramic plates to raise money for a hospice charity.

Glen ClydesdaleSimon Ward, a lecturer on the 3-Dimensional Design course at Gray's, organised the exhibition as part of a student project in memory of his late mother who passed away at St. Barnabas Hospice in Sussex last year.

The Hospice provides specialist palliative care to patients with advanced life-limiting diseases, their families and carers. Funds raised from the exhibition will go towards the ‘Building a Dream' project to replace the current Hospice with a state of the art new building.

The project, aimed at second-year 3D Design students, invited participants to use their creative energies to design an individual plate inspired from personal experiences. The project was then opened up to other students, graduates, lecturers and invited artists.

As well as raising funds for St. Barnabas Hospice, the exhibition also forms part of an initiative to showcase the emerging talent in ceramics at Gray's School of Art. The 3D Design course embraces ceramics as a major part of its programme, along with jewellery and glass.

Laura Williams (20) from North Berwick, a second-year 3D Design student, was inspired by a painting she encountered during a study-trip in France to create her unusual plate design featuring insects.

Laura explains: "I visited an art fair in Paris where I saw the most remarkable painting featuring dead insects. From a distance, the lines on the canvas looked like thick textured paint, but as I got closer I was horrified and then amazed to see the effect was made from layered, dead insects."

Seeking to recreate this optical illusion, Laura has created a pop-art style design on her plate that features bright coloured shapes but on closer inspection, features drawings of fleas and other insects.

Laura continues: "The function of a plate is a surface where you eat from with connotations of cleanliness - insects are regarded as dirty and carrying disease, so this was a great opportunity to bring these opposites together and hopefully get a reaction from visitors.

"The exhibition was a great opportunity to work with ceramics outwith my University coursework, and I hope my plate is sold to help raise money for the Hospice."

Simon has also designed a series of five plates inspired by his residency in China last year, which will be on display alongside the students' work.

In 2008, he received an award from the Scottish Arts Council to visit Jingdezhen in east China, known as the ‘Porcelain Capital' for its thriving historic ceramics economy. Using traditional methods of decoration, Simon's plates follow the signature Chinese blue and white peony flower-print theme.

Simon comments: "The exhibition has a very personal meaning for me due to my mother's illness and time at the Hospice, and I decided to use my plates as a vehicle for my individual expression reflecting on my time in China.

"I'm delighted that so many people including students, graduates, and lecturers, have contributed to the exhibition. Ceramics work is often an overlooked area in arts and crafts and this collection not only highlights the teaching at Gray's, but that we have a lot of talent in this field in the North-east."

The exhibition is free and open to the public daily until Sunday 5 December in the foyer at Gray's School of Art, Garthdee. Plates are priced at £30 each, with 20% of funds donated to the St. Barnabas ‘Building a Dream' fund.

Notes to Editors:

There will be an opportunity to photograph Laura Williams and Simon Ward with their work at Gray's School of Art tomorrow (Tuesday 30 November) at 11am. Sarah Grieve will meet members of the media at Reception.

Sarah Grieve
Communications Officer
Robert Gordon University
Schoolhill
Aberdeen
AB10 1FR
Tel: 01224 262206
Email: s.j.grieve@rgu.ac.uk