Installation at Ruthin Craft Centre, December 2013. Photo by Dewi Tannatt Lloyd. © Ruthin Craft Centre. Including: images of Emmanuel Cooper at the potters wheel, circa 1980's. © David Horbury.
LONDON - Emmanuel Cooper was many things: a writer, critic, editor, biographer, teacher, broadcaster, curator and campaigner, but above all he remained a maker of beauty. One of the leading potters of the past century, his international academic standing in many a field was, and indeed remains far reaching, yet at the very heart of all of this stands the art that he so loved. He was drawn to the excitement and endless possibilities that clay presented to him right up until his death last year at the age of 73.
Whilst I could expound for hours on just how important a role he played in bringing studio pottery to the forefront in Britain, or his pivotal position in the founding of the world’s leading ceramics magazine, instead I’d rather shed a little light on the beauty that he created in his small studio space in the heart of London’s Primrose Hill.
Ceramics remained his life-long passion, training under Gwyn Hanssen Pigott and later Bryan Newman, and it wasn’t long before he set up his own pottery in 1965 in Westbourne Grove, before moving north to Finsbury Park. In 1976 he moved for what was to be the last time to a quiet corner of Primrose Hill, with a studio and shop front overlooking the street and a flat above. I remember, as I am sure others do, passing the window and seeing a stunning array of brightly glazed pots filling every available space. It was like a tempting sweet shop, full of delicious colours and textures, as captured so brilliantly through Aileen Harvey’s photographs of his studio space.
Emmanuel Cooper, Large Bowl, stoneware, Estimate £500-700. Included in the forthcoming Made In Britain sale, Sotheby’s, 1st April 2014.
Emmanuel’s work grew and developed throughout the course of his life as he explored form and function, and it was in his masterful glazing that his skill really shone through, whether in the varied multicolour glazes that sang with a tasty, almost hallucinogenic richness, or his lusciously thick volcanic glazes, reminiscent of some of the later work of Lucie Rie (whose beautiful biography Emmanuel completed just prior to his death). I never had the chance to meet him. I was always too scared to knock on his studio door, and this remains one of my biggest regrets. But from speaking to those that knew him, worked with him and admired him, one gets a sense that he was a creator in every sense of the word. A creator of beauty, a creator of awareness and a creator of warmth, something that I think shines through brilliantly when looking at his pots.
Installation at Ruthin Craft Centre, December 2013. Photo by Dewi Tannatt Lloyd. © Ruthin Craft Centre.
For those that are not familiar with his captivating ceramics, a trip to the V&A or the National Museum of Scotland should sort you out, and until May you have the chance to see the most compelling selection of his works ever gathered together by the Ruthin Craft Centre and the University of Derby, with Emmanuel Cooper Retrospective (Ruthin Craft Centre, Wales, 7th December 2013 - 2nd February 2014; Markeaton Street Campus, University of Derby, 20th – 28th March and Contemporary Applied Arts, London, 10th April to 31st May).