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Don’t miss Magdalene Odundo ‘The Journey of Things’ at the Hepworth Wakefield

— by Alyson Walsh

Magdalene Odundo in her studio. Image credit: Wallpaper magazine

 

I’m due a trip up north and hoping that there’ll be time to cross the Pennines and visit friends in Wakefield. As well as a walk in the glorious Yorkshire Sculpture Park, world-renowned ceramicist, Magdalene Odundo OBE, has a major retrospective The Journey Of Things at the Hepworth Wakefield. Fingers crossed my Tour de Yorkshire coincides with the opening of the Hepworth’s new Sculpture Garden.

The exhibition includes more than 50 of Odundo’s works, her signature bulbous ceramic vessels sit alongside a large selection of photographs, paintings, textiles and sculptures from around the world. Curated by Odundo these artefacts shed light on her historical influences and interest in her own heritage, ‘I am a product of travel, and when you travel you gather a lot of information,’ she told Wallpaper magazine.

Born in Kenya in 1950, Odundo moved to the UK aged 21, initially to study graphic design at the Cambridge School of Art before transferring to the West Surrey College of Art & Design (now UCA). During her degree course, Odundo specialised in ceramics and travelled back to Africa to research how traditional societies produced clay vessels; mostly made by women the pots were shaped by hand and used for domestic purposes. Her hand-crafted sculptures are often large and asymmetrical with curvy silhouettes that reference the female body. The vessels are burnished by hand, rather than glazed, to help create the super-smooth surfaces; often in a dramatic mixture of orange and black. One sculpture burnished in black and red was made in 1978 for the Hepworth gallery’s own art collection (Odundo’s first piece to be purchased by a public institution).

At the Hepworth Wakefield, Odundo’s work is brought into context with British studio pottery by Hans Coper and Lucy Rie; ancient ceramics from Greece, Egypt, Africa, Asia and Central America; Elizabethan costume and textiles; as well as the work of leading 20th century artists including Edgar Degas, Barbara Hepworth, Henry Moore and Auguste Rodin.

‘I am excited and looking forward to enabling visitors to experience my work within the context of the very many cultures, histories and works of art that I have had the privilege of studying and taken inspiration from over the last 40 years’ she says.

There’s a short video of Odundo describing her work process, HERE, ‘The inside has to be perfect before the outside takes shape.’

 

Photos via Hepworth Gallery

 

Magdalene Odundo’s The Journey of Things is on at The Hepworth Wakefield until 2 June 2019.

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