The Raw & The Cooked

Studio Eleven celebrates a DECADE on Humber Street with the Member Artists Show.

Open Wednesday – Sunday 11am – 4pm
17th July – 8th September 2019

The members’ show The Raw & The Cooked, an exhibition of new artwork developed by our 28 members – potters, printmakers, and painters.

Curated by Artist Clare Holdstock, the ‘salon style’ installation is a joyful example of skills, concepts and styles. It’s ‘non-binary’ as we celebrate the exchange of art practices in which to engage and enrich a culture of creativity.

The title of this tenth anniversary exhibition, The Raw and the Cooked, references how the relationship between craft and contemporary art has changed and developed in recent years.  Taken from the first volume of Claude Levi-Strauss’s 1964 anthropological text Mythologiques, this phrase was notably adopted by contemporary practitioners working in ceramics and sculpture during the 1980s and 1990s, with a 1993 exhibition at Modern Art Oxford of the same name featuring a number of well-known contemporary artists who have gone on to become household names.  With this history in mind it is pertinent to consider how this phrase and the references that it infers function here in Hull in 2019, and in the particular context of Studio Eleven on Humber Street.

In very simplified terms, Levi-Strauss’s central argument was that binary oppositions drawn from every-day life and direct experience can be used in the formulation of abstract thought.  His starting point was the mythology of Amerindian cultures, but this notion of developing complex abstractions directly from bodily experience has clearly, and unsurprisingly, struck a chord with artists whose practices depend on an intimate knowledge of their materials, alongside an intellectual engagement with form and theory. There is also a more straightforward allusion to be read in how with ceramics and printing processes, material moves from a state of rawness and fluidity to being cooked and solid.  Many of the Studio Eleven artists are interested in disrupting this anti-entropic trajectory, with work that takes imagery and objects observed from every-day life and subverts their expected associations and meanings, whether through a juxtaposition with unexpected colour and material qualities, or with texture and scale.

One of the original ambitions for Studio Eleven was to provide space and to promote the hand-made, particularly in forms that have at times been excluded from fine art.  In 2009 this was partly a response to the rapid rise and proliferation of digital media, with founders Adele Howitt and Rob Moore seeking to celebrate the sense of agency that comes from manipulating a material directly with your body.  Here, working with traditional materials in contemporary ways is placed in opposition to aesthetic experiences mediated by technology that relatively few have the ability to mold.  With their programme of exhibitions at Studio Eleven, print-making and ceramic techniques are celebrated for their specialism and expertise, but through their workshops this skill and knowledge is also shared.  This is an important part of what Studio Eleven do, beyond promoting the individual practices of their studio members there is also an intention to advocate for the value of creative skills in general, and how they should be valued in both economic and cultural terms.

Artist-led organisations, of which Studio Eleven is one, are usually short-lived.  They depend on the energy, motivation and often self-sacrifice of a few organisers, but are rarely both sustainable and capable of staying true to their original principles.   As such, the fact that Studio Eleven has reached its 10th birthday indicates that there must be something necessary, and special about what the organisation does, and the context that it exists within.  Now led by Howitt, having weathered recession, redevelopment and a ‘city of culture’ designation over the past decade, with this celebratory exhibition it is pertinent to reexamine the aims and tenets that the artists set out with, and to consider why they are still as relevant now as they were in 2009.

Lauren Velvick.  Writer & Curator.