Julian Stair: Art, Death and the Afterlife18 March -17 September 2023
Our new Universal Ticket allows access to our entire gallery. This ticket operates on a ‘Pay If and What You Can’ basis. Upon arrival, please go to gallery reception where our universal ticket is available.
No pre-booking necessary. If you would like to make a Group Booking or have additional access needs, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 01603 593199.
We recommend allowing 45 minutes to fully explore the exhibition.
Leading ceramic artist, Julian Stair OBE, presents new works in Art, Death and the Afterlife. Created in response to the global pandemic, Stair offers commemoration and solace for those who have died and lost loved ones.
Around thirty new artworks by the artist, including monumental figural forms, will invite the viewer to meditate on the relationship between the clay vessel and the human body. They will be presented alongside objects from the Sainsbury Centre Collection, selected by the artist to communicate the universality of death as aesthetic inspiration and philosophical inquiry. By drawing together ancient Cycladic marble figures, anthropomorphic vessels from Ecuador, Nigeria and Japan, and twentieth-century drawings by Alberto Giacometti, Stair creates a poetic and moving meditation on the human condition. Positive and uplifting, Art, Death and the Afterlife explores humanity’s reliance on art as a means of traversing the unknown and overcoming the finality of death.
In connection with the exhibition, the Sainsbury Centre and Julian Stair are facilitating forums which bring together professionals working in end-of-life care, and members of the community in a series of Death cafés . Stair’s engagement has led to the donation of ashes of people who have recently died, with donors expressing their wishes to have these ashes embedded in the clay, or contained within Stair’s figural vessels, to create permanent memorials to their loved ones. These embodied jars will be presented in the exhibition, with the artist using scale, proportion and material composition to invoke the physical presence of the deceased.
Stair’s artistic practice is intensely personal. In recent years, the artist has made cinerary jars and memorial-based commissions for individuals. Reliquary for a Common Man (2012) was created in memory of Stair’s uncle-in-law, Les Cox, and displayed in the exhibition Quietus. Working closely with Cox’s bereaved family, Stair eulogised Cox’s life through text and video, and commemorated his death by incorporating his ashes into the clay body of an urn.
Julian Stair: Art, Death and the Afterlife is supported by an Arts Council England Project Grant.
Image: Julian Stair, Monumental Figural Jars, Sainsbury Centre, 2023, Photo: Jan Baldwin