Emmanuel Cooper: Connections & Contrasts

13th June to 6th September 2015: Leach Pottery Cube Gallery

Dr Emmanuel Cooper OBE, 1938-2012, was a distinguished craftsperson, curator, writer, teacher and broadcaster. His pots are represented in numerous public and private collections, both in the UK and overseas. He authored nearly thirty books and was the founder and editor of one of the world’s leading craft magazines, Ceramic Review. For over a decade, Emmanuel Cooper was visiting Professor of Ceramics and Glass at London’s Royal College of Art, and a regular broadcaster on television and radio. He was appointed OBE for his services to art in 2002.

His skills, first honed through the production of repeat domestic tableware at his London workshops, were increasingly expressed in the more nuanced making of individual artistic pieces. His glazes, surfaces, and forms, speak of the urban environment, from deeply textured detail to soft vibrant colours often accentuated with the addition of subtle gold highlights.

This major exhibition of Emmanuel Cooper’s ceramics is a fitting recognition of Emmanuel’s place in the story of studio ceramics and a timely return to the gallery where he curated the first exhibition that marked the re-opening of the Leach Pottery, as a museum, in 2008.

Emmanuel Cooper: Connections & Contrasts examines his work and career in the context of Leach, especially his relationship to Bernard Leach which began with a speculative letter from Emmanuel, in 1967, and turned full-circle, in 2003, with the publication of Emmanuel’s detailed biography of Bernard. Indeed, Emmanuel became the chronicler of the wider Leach family of potters with books on both David and Janet, making him a central figure in the recent Leach story.

This exhibition featured nearly 50 pots from the Emmanuel Cooper estate, alongside a small group of his production tableware, and also reveals a more personal side to Emmanuel’s work by showing some of his sketch books and other documents and drawings. There is also an additional display in the Old Pottery with images of Emmanuel throwing, in the late 1960s, alongside pictures of his workshop taken in his absence in 2012. These images feature on either side of Emmanuel's kick-wheel which had been installed in the Museum.

The whole exhibition is further enriched by a supporting book, Emmanuel Cooper: Connections & Contrasts, which includes a foreword by Edmund de Waal and an essay by Prof. Simon Olding, Director of the Crafts Study Centre. Published by the Leach Pottery, this limited edition full-colour 56 page book also features images of Emmanuel’s pots and selected extracts from his important personal archive.