An internationally acclaimed artist is set to bring ancient Anglo-Saxon animals depicted in the Staffordshire Hoard to life in a unique ceramics exhibition.
Royal College of Art graduate and 2010 World Crafts Council Triennial first prize winner Katharine Morling will create a series of 10 ceramic sculptures that will be put on permanent display in The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, in Stoke-on-Trent.
Stoke-on-Trent City Council has commissioned Katharine to create the display, as part of the London 2012 Festival. The 12-week festival is a nationwide celebration of the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, bringing together leading artists from across the world. The £70,000 commission has been funded entirely by Arts Council England.
An intimate preview night will take place at the museum on Thursday 16 August where invited guests will have the chance to talk to Katharine about her response to and interaction with the ancient treasure, and hear from regional director for Arts Council England Ros Robins and Nick Dodds of the London 2012 Festival.
Councillor Mark Meredith, cabinet member for economic development, said: “This is a fantastic coup for Stoke-on-Trent. We have worked very hard to put forward our city to be a part of the London 2012 Festival and Cultural Olympiad and it is a real privilege to be a partner in the largest cultural celebration in the history of the modern Olympic and Paralympic movements.
“We are delighted with Arts Council England’s generous support and thrilled to have such an up and coming star as Katharine working on such an exciting project.
“It again demonstrates the value of the Staffordshire Hoard as an unparalleled ancient treasure and also as a world famous attraction that boosts the profile of our city.
“And the real winners will be local residents and visitors to our museum, as once completed, Katharine’s work will be given a permanent home in the museum. So not only will visitors be able to see ancient artefacts from the largest and most valuable Anglo-Saxon treasure ever discovered, but they’ll also be able to see a unique and inspiring response to the treasure by one of the country’s most acclaimed ceramics artists.”
As part of the exhibition, Katharine is also developing a digital animation to re-imagine the story of the hoard, from the artefacts depicting strange creatures being found on the surface of the earth by metal detectorist Terry Herbert, to the creatures themselves being ‘unleashed from the ground from where they have been entombed for centuries’.
The ‘Morling and the Hoard Preview’ event will be the chance for invited guests to hear from Katharine about her approach to this unique commission, ahead of the sculptures being created in the coming months. The event will also include speeches from councillor Meredith and Tristram Hunt MP.
Since setting up her own studio in 2003, Katharine’s work, which is mainly in three dimensional drawings in the medium of ceramics, have gained a string of major awards. She has won the Arts Council England ‘award for the arts’ two years in a row, and also represented the UK at the 2010 European Ceramic Context in Denmark. She was selected for the ‘award’ exhibition at the British Ceramics Biennial in Stoke-on-Trent last year, and for COLLECT 2011, she showed a new installation of work in the Project Space of the Saatchi Gallery.
Katharine said: “I was so amazed when I saw the treasure and was struck by the fact that I was holding something that until recently hadn’t seen the light of day for centuries.
“It was an incredible experience that really resonated with me and I immediately began putting together possibilities of how I could respond to the hoard. I found I had so many questions – who were these people, and what were they doing all those years ago?
“I was particularly drawn to the many depictions of animals that decorated the hoard – what did they symbolise to the people who had worn them on their armour? Perhaps the Anglo-Saxons thought that they were taking on the energy and characteristics of these wild creatures, giving them greater strength and power in their battles.
“So I took the tiny images from the hoard and transformed them into mythological god figures, brought to life in a kingdom of ceramic animal gods. These deities embody the power of the decorative depictions that were originally worn on the battlefield hundreds of years ago.
“We believe that the Anglo-Saxons thought that these creatures were magical, powerful and could protect them. I want to let the magic and the power embedded in these beliefs shine with brilliance once again.”
It is expected that Katharine’s work will be completed over the coming months, and once ready, will be exhibited in The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery’s internationally-renown ceramics gallery. The display will run alongside the biggest ever exhibition of the Staffordshire Hoard – 226 artefacts are currently on show including individual items that can be seen fitted together for the first time ever in the UK. The exhibition will run until 1 September 2013.
The Staffordshire Hoard is jointly owned by Stoke-on-Trent City Council and Birmingham City Council.