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WORK OF THE WEEK | 26 November 2018

CAG.1334 John ffrench, Vase (green with black and grey speckled markings), 1960, ceramic, 28 x 6.5 cm. Presented, 1990. © the artist’s estate.

WORK OF THE WEEK! Did you know that we have almost 4,000 objects in the collection? These range from paintings, prints, and sculptures to film, furniture, and silverware. Among the most distinctive of these items is our collection of ceramics by John ffrench.

Born in Dublin to Irish and Italian parents, John ffrench (1928-2010) attended the National College of Art and Design in Dublin before moving to Florence in 1951 to study under Bruno Pauli at the Instituto Statale d'Arte di Firenze. Here he absorbed the influence of the Mediterranean and Italian Modernism, and worked with like-minded ceramicists on one-off pieces. His aesthetic also registers ffrench’s interest in Georges Braque (1882-1963), Henri Matisse (1869-1954), Joan Miró (1893-1983), and Pablo Picasso (1881-1973).

Back in Ireland, he was involved in Ring Studio (Kilkenny) and Arklow Studio Pottery, while across the Atlantic he opened the Dolphin Studio in Massachusetts. He also held a position as folk-art collector for the local Design Centre of West Bengal. He lived for a while at the ashram (spiritual hermitage) in Sevagram, the last home of Mahatma Gandhi. The craft tradition, the lifestyle and ethos in India was to become a huge influence on his own ceramic work.

The ashram way of life emphasised the importance of hands-on work, and commitment to one's craft. ffrench continued to be an advocate of this artisan lifestyle and preferred to hand build rather than ‘throw' his pots. As is evident in this vase, his work was very sculptural and experimental in form.

The Life and Work of John ffrench: Irish Ceramic Artist (1928-2010) by Peter Lamb is available from our bookshop.

Our exhibition EARTH, WIND & FIRE: Made in Cork Contemporary (23 November 2018 - 17 February 2019) showcases the work of Cork-based makers and artists breaking new ground in material manipulation.

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