Earthenware, porcelain and stoneware are just some of the best-known types of ceramics, whose origin lies in a material that is to be found in great abundance in the surface of the Earth. A mixture of water and minerals, clay is characterised by its enormous plasticity when moist, its hardness when dry, and its resistance after firing.
Ceramics still plays a remarkably central role in the life of the Portuguese. Façades lined with azulejos, or glazed tiles, are an integral part of the local landscape and there are few homes that do not contain a ceramic article from Caldas da Rainha, a lively handcrafted figurine or an old utilitarian pot made from black or red clay, used time and again in the preparation of family meals.
It is therefore no surprise to find that Portuguese potters and visual artists continue to explore the potential of this medium, imaginatively shaping, painting and glazing a variety of clay pastes. Assemblage #9 (next to the windows opposite) not only involves the joining together of three large plates and eight traditionally-shaped jugs; it is also the combination of age-old traditions and the creative spirit of two men. In 2003, Adelino Silva (b. 1934), a well-known potter from the Mafra region, threw the aforementioned utilitarian wares, which, immediately afterwards, were snugly merged together by Pedro Cabrita Reis (b. 1956).
What is surprising, however, is the scant attention that ceramic art has received from local museums, art historians and collectors. Some names are exceedingly well-known, but a considerable number of other ceramists and visual artists have also produced unique and highly original ceramics that remain largely overlooked. The aim of this exhibition is to provide the first overview of Portuguese ceramic art throughout the twentieth century, bringing to the public domain a corpus of work that is still unknown to many.
Pedro Moura Carvalho, Ph.D.