22nd April to 2nd June
The use of the human figure in sculpture has unique possibilities for evoking empathetic (or antithetical) emotions in the viewer, and because of this even conceptually demanding figurative sculpture tends to remain accessible to a wide range of audiences. With her return to figurative ceramics in this exhibition Susan Hicks has made use of this accessibility to create pieces whose immediate appeal renders palatable some potentially rather uncomfortable ideas. The work takes a wry and argumentative look at some of the iconic pieces of Western art and a few of the dominant aspects of contemporary culture, and reacts with the kind of unconventional moral outrage expressed in this line from Terry Pratchett: 'Sin is treating people as things. Including yourself.'
On a scale from the domestic to large works suitable for outdoor display each figure is an individual, with her character and life history etched in the idiosyncratic shape and posture of her body and the lines on her face; and they often appear to be reacting to the presence of the viewer - not always with approval! There are no anodyne 'perfect' figures here. The frequently elderly or overweight females conform to no historic or current standard of beauty, but they are modelled with a respect that betrays the artist's delight in their unconventional loveliness and induces a subtle re-evaluation of what we value in the human figure, and by implication in human beings.