Art With so much to see, and so little time to write, I'm inevitably going be talking about exhibitions which have been and gone. Sorry. Amanda Griffiths' Taming Smoke ran from 4th to 29th September at the back of the Lady Chapel, on window ledges and what must be candle ledges and tables most at about torso height. Unlike the Tony Cragg sculptures in the well with their contrasting materials, these smoke fired ceramics were entirely in-keeping with the setting, the grey surfaces coinciding beautifully with the sandstone walls.
The choice of venue wasn't random. In the information leaflets left in a basket with the display, Griffiths described how her great grandfather, a Welsh stone mason, worked on the building at the turn of the twentieth century, dying sadly of a chest related illness at the age of thirty-six. She hoped that "the placement and containment of my work (would) reflect the atmosphere evoked by the venue of this exhibition". It certainly did that, and it was impossible not approach it without some kind of reverence.
Griffiths's interest is in creating variety from uniformity. She manufactures a series of standard shapes -- tubes, cones, vases filled with slots, small round platters or "fipples" and balls with only the pigmentation generated through wax and dying techniques to differentiate them. Then, playing with this pottery meccano set, the artist goes about arranging them to produce each new object with highly descriptive titles like Enamel Pots, Pierced Rings, Titled Rings or Lifted Ring (the leaflet included an inventory of the sections).
She says she's influenced by La Corbusier amongst others and that's most obvious in the arrangement of the parts; Connecting Pots in which three pots stand parallel to one another, a fipples slotted between is reminiscent some of the architect/designer's later house schemes, perhaps Notre Dame du Haut at Ronchamp. She mentions Andy Goldsworthy too; his approach to produce temporary installations in locations for which the only subsequent record is a photograph. Griffiths photographs her work at beaches and in sea scapes
But the first thought that entered my head was how alien they were, like musical instruments or cooking utensils from some offworld culture the use of which our xenoanthropologists might take decades to unscramble. Balanced Segment, a half moon tube shape kept from falling over by wooden stick through a hole at its summit could even be both, the alien presumably having two mouths, one for each end. It's almost like nothing you've ever seen before.