Slee’s Swans13 March -11 September 2022
FREE entry, no ticket needed
East End Gallery
In this new work from acclaimed ceramic artist Richard Slee, fourteen majestic swans glide across the tranquil surface of their museum plinths. With twisting, sinuous necks and red latex beaks, the swans exude a restless, inquisitive energy that animates the surrounding space. Their spiralling bodies call to mind spinning tops and evoke a child-like sense of delight.
Over the centuries, swans have appeared in popular tales from the erotic Greek myth of ‘Leda and the Swan’, to Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Wild Swans’ and Pyotr Tchaikovsky’s ‘Swan Lake’. Folklore has made the swan a magical symbol of physical transformation, chastity and beauty.
Although the perfection of the swans’ ribbed conical bodies resembles the sleek industrial aesthetic of mass-produced design, Swans are hand-built, combining traditional wheel-thrown techniques with extruded and moulded clay.
Slee uses the subversive power of humour to interpret and reframe familiar objects. Swans is a mischievous nod to the traditions of illustrious porcelain manufactories, such as Meissen, whose graceful and naturalistic swans were famous from the eighteenth century onwards. This is the UK debut of Slee’s playful Swans.
Quote: Richard Slee
Image: Richard Slee, Swans, 2019, ceramic and latex. Photo: Annik Wetter © Richard Slee
“I have made other swans but these I see as a set (a Bank, Bevy, Drift, Eyrar, Gaggle, Gargle, Herd, Wedge of Swans). I like the way they crop up as subjects in the decorative arts... I guess it’s a subject I enjoy.”