The Burton at Bideford, Art Gallery & Museum is delighted to welcome a brand-new ceramic exhibition from ceramicist Connor Coulston. The show opened on October 4th and will remain on display until January 9, 2023.

Connor Coulston is a ceramicist whose practice is defined by the ongoing conversation between his self-deprecating sense of humour, wild imagination, and the materiality of clay. For his first exhibition in Devon, Coulston has explored The Burton at Bideford’s Permanent Collection and has selected 7 pieces to reimagine. Ranging from Tobacco Jars to Meissen figurines Coulston has reimagined these chosen pieces to surprise, unsettle and entertain. The addition of neon light to the pieces gives an added dimension and modernity to the sculptures and the results are humorous, colourful, and sometimes shocking.

Connor says: ‘I have found exploring The Burton at Bideford’s Permanent Collection an extremely rewarding experience. I have used this exhibition to further explore the relationship between neon and the ceramic surface whilst also pushing my modelling skills by creating new figurative works. I have made seven new sculptures in reaction to the collection and they all encapsulate my childhood memories, feelings, or emotions at the time of making. I am also excited to show my works on paper for the first time ever, some are quick sketches and plans for some of the sculptures in the show but all are very personal and really show my thoughts and ideas behind the pieces.’

The majority of Coulston’s work is a result of a fascination for the kitsch ceramic ornaments that you would usually find in a charity shop, museum, or that have adorned his grandmother’s fireplace. He subverts these often-mundane pieces through a rigorous questioning of the piece’s legacy and hidden narrative whilst focusing on personal issues such as depression, queer identity, and his grandmother’s love for right-wing politicians. Coulston uses his self-deprecating humour as a tool to create surreal and kitsch sculptures which act as a preface to bring his audience into a false sense of security so his work can reveal its more sinister undertones.

Burton Exhibitions & Collections Manager Warren Collum says ‘Following on from the success of Connor’s inclusion to ‘Welcome to My World’ exhibition, it gave me great pleasure to introduce The Burtons Permanent Collection of traditional ceramics to Connor and watch a journey of how he responded in reinterpreting and inspiring a number of autobiographical works which feature in the show. The combination of neon lighting, gold slips and contemporary narratives not only presents a reflection on society, but also a creative language that compliments the creative voices in the Burton’.

Connor Coulston (b. 1992) graduated from the Royal College of Art in 2017 and has since exhibited widely in the UK. He was the winner of the Ingram Prize in 2020 and was shortlisted for the AWARD at the British Ceramics Biennial in Stoke on Trent in 2021 as well as for the Young Master’s Art Prize in 2019 and the John Ruskin Art Prize in the same year.

Instagram: @connor.coulston

Featured Image: Feelin a lil sensitive, Courtesy of Connor Coulston © Denisa Ilie