The lost works of Philip Warren

Artists Statement by John Ullinger                                                                          videos at bottom of page

The lost works of Philip Warren refers to a character in “The Childrens Book” by the celebrated British author AS Byatt.  It is, I believe, a book that is or should be loved and discussed in pottery circles. Philip Warren and his Master, the perverted genius Benedict Flood could be  the two most famous potters that never were. The Childrens Book follows the lives of several interconnected families  and begins in 1895. In the first few pages our (my) hero, a  taciturn, impoverished and talented teenage boy is found squatting in the basement of the Victoria and Albert Museum in order to study the collection. He does not seem to know what he will make, only that he will make it.  He is  fated to pursue the making of beautiful pottery and is suddenly pitched headlong into the epicentre of the late Victorian Arts and Crafts movement, Fabianism and the broader Aesthetic movement.  Making artistic handmade  pottery is his only way up and out of grinding working class poverty  and so, for him, it is a matter of life and death. Philip is one character among many so we never really find out in detail what Philip’s pottery might have become. It can only be imagined. There is much of Philip’s  life that I find myself identifying with although he is of course much more famous than I am. This work is in honour of Philip Warren and consists of hand made pots he conceivably would have understood.

These pots are intended as objects of contemplation, beauty and functionality in that they function as containers and can occupy and be read within architectural space. The turquoise and lustrous surfaces, the celtic script and classical pottery forms  harken to the times of William DeMorgan, William Morris and the writings of John Ruskin. I have tended to choose poems or excerpts of poems from popular and recognisable romantic, protofeminist and metaphysical poetry.  Poetry is something I started to add to my work whilst living in Scotland for a year in 2008. I have become a scanner rather than a reader of poems looking for scraps of poems that somehow say a great deal with very few words. They are not meant to be a vehicle for the direct reading of a poem, as takes place on the page, although people do walk around in circles reading the piece and enjoy it. Dizzying poetry. As the text wraps itself around the forms it becomes  text as texture, with numerous “cut up” readings also possible.  I have looked for excerpts or short pieces that somehow strike a chord in me and others and importantly can be made to fit the complex surfaces and areas they are placed upon.


PS  I sent Jeff Mincham some still images, an artists statement and my cv a couple of days before filming. There was then a 15-20 minute phone call where Jeff asked me some questions and we had a broad ranging discussion on ceramics. He then turned up on the day,  looked at the actual works, made notes consisting of 33 words and made the video in one take.

It was classy!