Exhibition: ‘Emmanuel Cooper: Connections & Contrasts’
13th June to 6th September 2015: Leach Pottery Cube Gallery
As Exhibition Coordinator at the Leach Pottery, I curated this exhibition to illustrate some of the connections and contrasts found between Bernard Leach and Dr Emmanuel Cooper OBE (1938-2012). Emmanuel was a distinguished craftsperson, curator, writer, teacher and broadcaster. His pots are represented in numerous public and private collections, both in the UK and overseas. He authored nearly thirty books and was the founder and editor of one of the world’s leading craft magazines, Ceramic Review. For over a decade, Emmanuel Cooper was visiting Professor of Ceramics and Glass at London’s Royal College of Art, and a regular broadcaster on television and radio. He was appointed OBE for his services to art in 2002.
The exhibition was a fitting recognition of Emmanuel’s place in the story of studio ceramics and a timely return to the gallery where he curated the first exhibition that marked the re-opening of the Leach Pottery, as a museum, in 2008. His work and career are examined in the context of Leach, especially his relationship to Bernard Leach which began with a speculative letter from Emmanuel, in 1967, and turned full-circle, in 2003, with the publication of Emmanuel’s detailed biography of Bernard. Indeed, Emmanuel became the chronicler of the wider Leach family of potters with books on both David and Janet, making him a central figure in the recent Leach story.
The exhibition featured nearly 50 pots from the Emmanuel Cooper estate, alongside a small group of his production tableware, and revealed a more personal side to his work by showing some of his sketch books and documents. I also installed an additional display in the Old Pottery with images of Emmanuel throwing, in the late 1960s, alongside pictures of his workshop taken in his absence, in 2012, by Aileen Harvey. These images feature on either side of Emmanuel’s Leach Kick-Wheel.
The whole exhibition was further enriched by a supporting book which I edited, Emmanuel Cooper: Connections & Contrasts – this includes a foreword by Edmund de Waal and an essay by Prof. Simon Olding, Director of the Crafts Study Centre. Published by the Leach Pottery, this limited edition full-colour 56 page book also features images of Emmanuel’s pots and selected extracts from his important personal archive.
Additionally, I commissioned new oak plinths, made by Re-Form Furniture, to facilitate the enhanced display of objects from Emmanuel’s estate. These plinths, funded along with the book by the Hargreaves and Ball Trust, will be a fitting and beautiful feature of Leach Pottery exhibitions for decades to come.