Published on Culture 24
Deviants, Hove Museum and Art Gallery, Hove, until September 13 2009
Whereas artists are encouraged to break rules, craftspeople generally aren’t. From potters, metalworkers and textile experts, the public usually demands something useful or at the very least decorative.
Deviants is a touring exhibition which makes an example of some 16 makers of craft objects who refuse to conform to the stereotypes of their trade. The work on display serves no purpose other than to startle, shock and amuse.
Take Teapot on 15 Legs by Irish ceramicist Jill Crowley. You would need a syringe to fill it and an age to wait for your brew to trickle out of the perversely narrow spout. And yes, it has 15 legs, which is at least 12 more than is strictly necessary.
Then again, Teapot by Angus Suttie is equally implausible. This one has two spouts, one of which looks stuck on as an afterthought. A tasteful glaze might have rectified matters, but the paintwork looks half finished.
Some works hint at functionality, but others just laugh at the idea. Brick-Filled Bag by Gillian Lowndes is rendered redundant by the eponymous section of wall. Hello? by Richard Slee does indeed pose a question. Is it a pair of vases? A pair of skittles? The viewer is left mystified.
But what you might do with Hans Stofer’s work is more immediately apparent. Grape Trap is an elegant steel prison for an unsuspecting grape and Grape Run is a similar contraption for rolling your captive back and forth.
You’d think that a piece of knitting might be less bizarre, but the glove on display is about a metre long and has been designed for 25 fingers and thumbs. At least Hand of Good, Hand of God by Freddie Robins is a sensible shade of grey-blue.
Elsewhere, Christopher Williams has fashioned an exquisite pale pink bowl that looks both operational and aesthetically pleasing. There’s one drawback, inevitably. His Bum Bowl is shaped like a rear end.
“All the works have been selected to show the stranger edge of craft,” Amanda Jones, of organisers the Crafts Council, has explained. It’s a boundary which certainly blurs into the realms of art.