Hans Coper, Ruth Duckworth and Lucie Rie at Erskine, Hall & Coe
In the impressive setting of the Royal Arcade in Old Bond Street, the work of Hans Coper, Ruth Duckworth and Lucie Rie is to be found in a discreet gallery that seems placed like an afterthought in this busy, central location.
All three artists were familiar with one another’s work, and here exhibit some of the creations from when their careers overlapped in Britain after first arriving as refugees in the late 1930s.
Light floods through ornate windows to illuminate the work displayed on tall, generously spaced stands. The exhibits are individual but pull together in fluid minimalism. There are no signs identifying each artist, but there’s a definite diversity that shows the different voices echoing throughout the room.
Duckworth left Britain in 1968, leaving Coper and Rie to continue their work there for the remainder of their lives. There is certainly a strangely similar contrast between the artists that seems to narrate the development of their individual paths.
Coper presents a series of geometrically formed pots with methodically scraped black and white detail, showing the dedication put into every piece. This is echoed in a contrastingly abstract way by Rie’s incised black lining and careful colour spreading through her open-mouthed bowls; the attention to detail even within her expressive freedom is startling. Both these artists use the concept of space and constraint in their work, the difference being that Coper uses the narrow necks of his pieces to emphasise the space contained within, as opposed to Rie’s expansive rims that open out in an expression of freedom.
It’s a strange contrast to Duckworth’s offerings: the stripped-back simplicity of her work carrying with it a confident clarity. Several pieces here, notably Untitled, circa 1970, are almost sexually provocative, but the calm simplicity of the sculpted clay transforms them into a peaceful actuality – it isn’t there to make a statement, instead to express whatever one wishes to read into it.
The exhibition certainly presents fantastic work, but it doesn’t feel as though it’s really there to be absorbed: the entirety of it seems akin to a snapshot as opposed to a presentation of work. Despite that, it’s most certainly worth slipping up the steps and taking a moment to appreciate the momentary impact of the collection as a whole.
Hans Coper, Ruth Duckworth & Lucie Rie is at Erskine, Hall & Coe until 3rd October 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.