Maura Doyle’s “Who the Pot?” is funny, instructive, strange, and totally beautiful. The show is made up of 19 clay sculptures, hand-built and fired in a drum of naked flame. The works are shown on very slightly off-white plinths (warmer than the gallery walls), and some are propped up with brightly coloured de Stijl– or Memphis-style metal supports.
The works themselves resemble asymmetric vessels. Some could be stone-age water jugs or pitchers for mead; some are clearly closer to Styrofoam cups or jumbo plastic pop bottles. But they all have bumps and curves; they lean and slouch.
The surface of Doyle’s pots are full of colour and tone. Pools of charred black and clouds of powder blue. Burnt sienna skin and ochre mist. It’s the smoke and the open flame that produce these fantastic textures, and the combustible stuff Doyle throws into the drum: wood chips, sticks, grass, potato chips.
These pots are like bodies. They have skin and guts, bellies, ripples, lips, and hips. They bear the maker’s fingerprints; they have been rubbed and patted like a loved-one’s rump. They have posture; they swoon and slip. And some of these pots even have a gait, a way of moving, just as any creature does.
I like the material readiness of clay hand-built and set in a blaze: Mess like this is always better than pristine conceptualism. And I like the comic effect of the figurative forms. But the work goes further than that.
This stuff changes how I see. Suddenly I see everywhere the surreal anthropomorphism of the world we build. Not only the foundational Vitruvian logic of a human world modelled on the human body, but a dizzying, wonderful, ridiculous kind of self-portraiture anywhere I look.
Walls and doors, windows and washbasins, towers and trains, all portraiture. Cups as mouths; bottles, stomachs; sewers, guts.
So Maura Doyle’s pots are alive. And so is everything else.