Nicholas Lees

‘I am intrigued in exploring the boundaries between shadows and light, in optical illusion and how to manifest these qualities in clay.’ Placed in relationship to each other, the pieces take on a kinetic quality appearing to shift and move in optical illusions of light and shadow.

Nicholas Lees is a sculptor working in clay. The works are made from Parian, a porcelain clay developed in Stoke on Trent in the 19th century to imitate marble . The pieces are thickly thrown on the wheel, dried slowly and evenly before the fins are formed through lathe turning of the leather hard clay before firing. This making draws on precedents from the industrial production of electrical insulators to the use of throwing and lathe turning by Wedgwood since the 18th century. The introduction of colour is inspired by his works on paper with ink, in which the interaction between wet and dry is used as a parallel for movement and the uncertainty of perception. The use of soluble metal salts in colouring ceramic is an unusual technique. He applies solutions of metal salts to the interior of the biscuit fired (still porous) pieces. The pieces are filled with water and saturated before being dried in the kiln. As they dry, the colour moves through the form and concentrates onto the edges of the fins through the suction caused by faster evaporation from those edges. The pieces are then fired to their top temperature to vitrify them.

‘This series of work evolved out of research for an MPhil by project at the Royal College of Art. In considering transitions between two and three dimensions in the production of artworks, I looked at shadows and silhouettes and became interested in the penumbra – half shadow, half light. I am making a series of optical vessels embodying a penumbra of material, an uncertain presence that captures a dialogue between solidity and ephemerality. The objects have a dynamic relationship with space, light and the body of the viewer. The perception of their presence constantly shifts according to variations in these factors.’

Nicholas has exhibited in prestigious venues in the UK. Denmark, France, Italy and Germany wth recent Solo shows at Messum's West and Petersfield Museum, His work is in the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, Chippenham Museum, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Bishop Otter Collection. University of Chichester, Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche, Faenza, Italy. York City Art Gallery, Royal Caribbean International Keramikmuseum Westerwald, Germany, Auckland Museum, New Zealand.

He has won several awards including 3rd prize at the Premio Faenza (Italy) in 2003, the National Sculpture Award from the Bluecoat Display Centre in Liverpool in 2010 and the Desmond Preston Prize for Excellence in Drawing at the RCA in 2012. He worked as a Senior Lecturer at Bath Spa University between 2000 and 2010 and as a Visiting Lecturer since 2010. He also works as a visiting lecturer at the RCA and UCA Farnham. His work has been featured in 2024 'Ceramic Review' no 326, 2024, 'Revista Ceramica'. Issue 145., 2017, 'La Ceramica in Italia e nel Mundo 'no 30. 2016, 'Neue Keramik' 6/2015