Come to the Edge: The Pots and Tile Panels of Bernard Leach
Tate St Ives: Exhibition
22 January 2 May 2005
Bernard Leach, 'Fish Vase' 1973-4

Bernard Leach
Fish Vase 1973-4
Lithograph on paper
image: 508 x 298 mm
Presented by Curwen Studio through the Institute of Contemporary Prints 1975© The estate of Bernard Leach

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Now widely acknowledged as part of the modernist movement in the early decades of the twentieth century, Bernard Leach’s ceramics are continually being reassessed as the movement itself is subject to increasing scrutiny. This exhibition of some thirty pots and tiles, all made by Leach or under his close supervision and bearing his seal, focuses on major pieces from a career covering nearly seventy years of working with clay.

The exhibition highlights the simplicity and strength of his understanding of form and his awareness of inner and outer space, as well as his highly accomplished decoration. This ranges from powerfully conceived and executed slip-decorated earthenware chargers to painted decoration on his iconic Leaping Salmon vase, and his use of fluting to highlight form and surface.

In successfully integrating form and decoration on pots that are quiet and contemplative, Leach was part of a pioneering movement for an alternative art form. Born in the East and educated in the West, Leach was equally at home in either culture. He studied pottery in Japan with a traditional potter, Kenzan, from the point of view of a Western-trained artist, and brought to his ceramics a sculptural awareness of a three-dimensional form, acquiring in the process a profound understanding of the aesthetics associated with China, Korea and Japan.

In bringing together a carefully chosen group of his ceramics, Come to the Edge traces Leach’s changing concerns and shed fresh light on the work that confirms him as a major twentieth-century artist.