Matthew Warner: Social Objects

8 February - 10 March 2018

'Pots fascinate me because they embody and articulate nuanced details about society and culture. They are relics or signals of taste, social behaviour and cultural history. These everyday objects span social divides and convey very concentrated messages about their owners and their environment.'

Young potter Matthew Warner is widely admired for the comprehensive body of elegant, functional tableware he has made over the last four years. 

For his first solo exhibition, Warner has created an entirely new body of work, representing a return to earlier passions and ambitions. This new work is the beginning of his exploration of pots as a relevant medium through which to discuss contemporary themes. Warner sees pots as social objects that communicate ideas about lifestyle, status and taste. 

Josiah Wedgwood provided the spark and reference point for Warner’s new work which will be shown at Contemporary Applied Arts, London in February 2018. For Warner, this work is about the perceived status of form, function and material, as well as the cultural and social value of the objects we choose to have in our homes. His aim is not to redesign Wedgwood but to use these forms as a vehicle to portray his idea. 

Warner draws great inspiration from Josiah Wedgwood as a potter, although studio potters generally dismiss him as an Industrialist. ‘I believe Wedgwood’s contribution to our society is still very present today, and as a studio potter myself, I feel a connection to his process and understanding of the role these objects play in daily life.’ Imitating Wedgwood is not Warner’s intention: rather, he is using the forms of Wedgwood as a starting point for his new work. He says: ‘Studio pottery is imbued with its own language and history, and it is through the juxtaposition of these recognisable forms from our industrial age and the language of studio pottery that I hope to start a conversation.’ 

He continues: ‘My new forms are familiar and are inspired by Wedgwood’s neoclassical style. For me Wedgwood is a particularly interesting potter to draw inspiration from because he was keenly aware of the social needs, trends and fashions of his time’ says Warner. ‘This included the rise of the ‘middling sort’ and the increasing popularity of social dining. Running parallel to this was the taste for the classical and ‘antique’ works of art. Wedgwood understood the human desire to express personal ambitions and ideals through the objects we display in our homes and interact with on a daily basis. And he was aware of the power these objects have to denote a specific lifestyle or aspiration’

Warner observes that fellow artists often ask him: “Why do you make pots?” His answer is that ‘through this work, I hope to explore how pots, the most social objects in our lives, convey deep messages about our society and hold more significance than is often realised.’

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