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Review: Louise Waller at Victoria Gallery & Museum

This small but playful exhibition at the Victoria Gallery & Museum is a beautiful introduction to the work of one of Liverpool’s best established ceramic artists, Louise Waller, who has been working in clay now for twenty years. Each year seeing changes to her process, her vision and her products, all of which skirt the line between craft and fine art.

Louise Waller has been an active part of Baltic Clay for as long as I can remember, and as part of the staff team at Tate Liverpool has been instrumental in coordinating a group of Tate staff artists into some of the most engaging independent exhibitions in the city.

But this show is very deservedly all about her, and the ceramics that have been at the core of her practice now for, as the exhibition title suggests, twenty years.

Louise Waller’s ceramic works are entirely sculptural for this exhibition, but all offer a hint of functional design, referring back to her roots as a ceramicist, making vases and other useable objects.

The plates, for example, mounted on wooden boards on opposing walls are a collaboration with Elaine Tierney, showcasing both of their expertise in conservation, restoration and design of contemporary craft. The plates are the most functional objects in the show, but are mounted onto timber boards.

This appropriation of functional objects into objects of beauty highlights the nature of her work today, which is created from a base knowledge of how to make and create functional ceramics, mixed with a desire to create aesthetically beautiful sculpture that explores how the material moves and interacts with its handler.

Louise is also running workshops at Shakespeare North for kids and adults alike, leading an introductory workshop in hands-on ceramics where anyone can make their own abstract earthenware money box. If you’re not that into making, you can see a display of money boxes created through community workshops all summer at the new Shakespeare North in Prescot (and some incredible theatre while you’re there).

And, as I’ve mentioned, her work with Tate staff artists is far from over, with two exhibitions running concurrently as part of Independents Biennial in August and September this year, sharing the work of about thirty artists who are all actively working through Tate Liverpool’s main building.

We’ll probably revisit that show later in the year with reviews or interviews with the artists, but the focus of any of that will be on celebrating how artists are in every corner of this city, and our region’s galleries are propped up by them.

Louise Waller, whether she’ll admit it or not, is one of the most important of those artists, and in twenty years has done as much for this city’s artists, and as much to maintain the presence of ceramics as an art form than anyone I can recall.

If you want to get to know one artist this month, get to know Louise Waller. Twenty Years of Ceramics at the Victoria Gallery & Museum will put a smile on your face.

Louise Waller: Twenty Years of Clay is open at the Victoria Gallery & Museum as part of Independents Biennial until 31st December

Clay Money Box Workshops will be held 4th, 9th and 17th August at Shakespeare North

Evocation, by Tate staff artists, is open from 17th August at Elevator Studios, and 24th August – 14th September at Avenue HQ

Words, Patrick Kirk-Smith

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