I called in at the opening of Claire Partington’s exhibition at the James Freeman Gallery in Upper Street. I’ve admired her work ever since spotting a very elaborate ceramic piece out of the corner of my eye when I was meant to be judging the Young Masters Painting prize. It was a work which was very obviously based on Jan van Eyck’s Arnolfini Marriage Portrait, but not in a reproductive way – detached, reverential and subversive all at the same time. It was called Urban Planner and I somehow ended up buying it (she holds a tower block in her hand as well as having a cigarette butt at her foot). As a result, I was asked to write a short appreciation of her work, which I did in July, based on seeing her recent work in her studio. But I should have learned long ago how different work looks when properly lit in a gallery, instead of roughly arranged round a studio.
In her current exhibition, she has a work based on Cranach’s Lucretia:-
Another which is a version of a della Robbia:-
And a third which she thinks is a homage to medieval tomb sculpture, and I think bears some of the characteristics of Lydia Dwight (I think she used to work as a technician at the V&A):-
Most contemporary fine art ceramics is distinguished by rough execution. Claire’s is remarkable for the quality of its execution as well as its depth of historical reference.