Claire Partington’s Figures Combine Centuries of Narratives, Styles
Claire Partington is a ceramics artist living and working in London, is a storyteller. The artist says that the aesthetic of her spellbinding figures is inspired by the “European Applied Art and Design styles from the 1600s onwards.” Yet, she’s fascinated by the tradition of appropriating so-called “exotic” styles and cobbling together influences into a single artifact also drives her work.
Folklore and fairytales are also an important influence in her work, both for their vivid imagery and also for how their narratives mutate over the years and in different contexts. Some works make direct references, such as that of a Flemish saint holding a silver nutmeg and a golden pear in allusion to the Tudor nursery ryhme. Other sculptures are zoomorphic, much like many fairytale characters: 18th century courtiers change from Goldilocks into a bear or Red Riding Hood into a wolf through the use of interchangeable heads reminiscent of eathenware vessel stoppers. Alongside these are figures that seem to have emerged from an unknown history, characters surrounded by animal friends that could have been drawn from a medieval master’s symbolic lexicon. A dandy with his hart, a matron with her squirrel monkey: these are sculptures in the visual tradition of Holbein or Campin but with a contemporary sense of humour and the surreal.
“Narrative and the retelling and misinterpretation of stories is at the center of my work,” Partington says, in a statement. “Initially concentrating on reimagining and retelling Folk and fairy stories with particularly strong imagery, then merging these stories with imagined back stories for historical figures and their associated iconic imagery.
Claire describes the work by saying, “The subjects for my work come from varied sources – contemporary culture, traditional children’s rhymes and folk tales. The aesthetic inspiration is drawn largely from European Applied Art and Design styles from the 1600’s onwards. Underpinning this is the long European tradition of appropriation and reinterpretation or misinterpretation of “exotic” styles that can be seen in National Collections across Europe.
Partington’s works can be found in private collections across the globe, including eydan Weiss Collection and 21C Museum.