Magdalene Odundo: Clay Forms

4 July - 23 September 2001

The inaugural exhibition at Blackwell, The Arts & Crafts House, brought together a specially selected group of exquisite ceramic vessels made by Magdalene Odundo. Containing over 50 pieces, it was a rare opportunity to see the full range of her work including 15 new works. The exhibition was an overview of Odundo's career, to date, whilst also showing contemporary objects in the wonderful Arts and Crafts setting at Blackwell for the very first time.

In recent years, with her fresh approach to handbuilding and burnishing, Magdalene Odundo has done much to bring these ancient techniques to the contemporary world. On one level, her hand-built vessels are highly orthodox, created using a fusion of traditional making methods which have been in use for centuries, yet they are also abstract works full of sensual elements and subtle suggestions of the human body.

African and European influences can be seen in these organic forms, some of which bear traces of gourd-shapes or natural forms. Others appear more contorted with twisted necks and enlarged mouths and have perhaps evolved from her research into vessels associated with ceremonies and rituals for rites of passage at birth, initiation, marriage and death generally performed in African societies.

Magdalene Odundo was born in Nairobi, Kenya and her early education was in India and at home in Kenya. She studied at the Surrey Institute of Art and Design and completed her M.A. at the Royal College of Art and now lives and works in London. Odundo's sculptures are highly collectable and she has had a number of significant international exhibitions. Her works are included in important public collections including The V&A, The British Museum, The Metropolitan Museum, New York, The National Museum of African Art at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC and The Museum fŸr Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg.

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