Following the huge success of Disobedient Bodies: JW Anderson Curates in 2016, The Hepworth Wakefield prepares to stage the second in a series of exhibitions exploring new ways of looking at histories of art through the eyes of leading creatives. Succeeding the iconic British fashion designer, world-renowned ceramist Magdalene Odundo OBE will present The Journey of Things, featuring over 50 of her own works alongside a selection of objects spanning 3,000 years of culture from across the globe, reflecting the remarkable diversity of her influences.
Now celebrated for her deeply sensuous, asymmetrical pot-bellied vase forms, Odundo was born in Kenya in 1950 and trained in commercial art and advertising, before moving to England where she first fell in love with pottery. Over the last three decades, her interest in craft has led her on journeys throughout Europe, Asia, Central America and especially East Africa where she became interested in emsubi, the traditional Ugandan pottery firing technique that lends her hand-built unglazed pots their seductive smooth finish and distinct colouration – ranging from bright orange to hues of smoky, iridescent black.
The accompanying display of objects – housed in a space designed by the internationally acclaimed architect Farshid Moussavi OBE – will provide a window into Odundo’s rich array of influences, as well as her interest in her own diasporic identity. British studio pottery by Hans Coper and Lucie Rie, ancient vessels from Greece and Egypt, Elizabethan costume and textiles, ritual sculpture from across the African continent, and a large work by the contemporary Ghanaian artist El Anatsui will all sit alongside numerous other pieces in a uniquely formulated snap-shot of art across time and place.
Speaking of her unwavering fascination with pottery, Odundo has described the ancient craft as “essentially cultural” – capturing the history of humanity in a way that no other art form does. Her own creations perhaps carry this thought a stage further, shaped by a sense of embodiment, gesture, stance, movement, even dance. “They are something that comes out of me,” she explains. Uniting the personal and the universal, Magdalene Odundo: The Journey of Things at The Hepworth Wakefield looks set to be a powerful continuation of the precedent set by Jonathan Anderson’s wonderfully playful takeover.