‘Unglazed’ presents eight millennia of ceramic art from around the world, emphasising how diverse cultures have transformed clay into myriad forms for thousands of years. In contrast to the smooth, frictionless and glossy surfaces that typify today’s digital culture, this exhibition celebrates the earthy ‘unglazed’ quality of ancient ceramic work. ‘Unglazed’ is attuned to the physical, human touch and creative spirit of anonymous makers. The exhibition title emphasises the raw quality of the works on display, which show the texture of the clay, its unevenness, cracks and imperfections.
From the earliest piece in the show – a Neolithic fertility goddess from Anatolia c.5000-6000 BCE, to the latest, an enigmatic Costa Rican vessel in the form of a bird, c.1100-1500 CE, these works possess a sense of immediacy, playfulness and sometimes strangeness that transcends time. Whether a Bronze Age mask from Israel c.2700-1700 BCE, or a hump-backed Amlash Zebu Bull from northern Iran, c.1200-800 BCE (pictured above), an enigmatic reclining Sumerian figure from 3000-2000 BCE, or a Cypriot painted vessel in the form of breasts from c.900-700 BCE, the works drawn from across Africa, Asia and The Middle East and Europe reveal the different forms and finishes clay can take and how diverse civilisations have moulded the earth itself into objects imbued with humanity and occasionally humour.
Other highlights of the show include a large Han Dynasty terracotta horse, c.206- 220 BCE, a Tang Dynasty camel with removable rider, c.618-906 BCE, and a large Indus Valley vessel covered in animal designs, c.3000-2000 BCE.
All of the works in the show come from the vast collection of the Barakat Gallery, assembled over decades by Fayez Barakat, the fifth-generation custodian of the collection and international family business. Barakat comments on how and why he chooses the objects in his gallery:
“The things that I cherish the most have a personality that transcends their obvious appearances or function and which I call energy. Like beauty, it is to be found in the eye or the touch of the individual and everyone perceives it differently."
image: AMLASH VESSEL IN THE FORM OF A ZEBUBULL C.1200 - 800 BCE