The Shock of the Now Issue 14
Featured Exhibition Text

Holly Stevenson
'Reading Between the Lines' Solo Exhibition
Sid Motion Gallery
20th October 2021

Ever since Holly Stevenson’s earliest experimentations with pottery in 2017, her practice has been preoccupied with the repetitive recreation of Sigmund Freund’s favoured ashtray, which can be found still resting on the desk at the famed founder of psychoanalysis’ final residence turned museum in North London. Employed by the artist as naturally suggestive allegories of the male and female reproductive organs, the vulvular jadeite dish complete with Freud’s final phallic cigar form a figurative framework within which Stevenson can address antiquated preconceptions of feminity, gender and motherhood.

At Sid Motion Gallery, tubular forms with pink-faced tips sprout from a shallow ovate pot, alluring amorphous yet anthropomorphic bodies emerge from uterine vessels and voluptuous hermaphroditic forms are embellished with bows, necklets or floral headdresses. For this latest outing of appropriated ashtrays, Reading Between the Lines, Stevenson draws from her own personal experiences of both juvenescence and child-rearing, with particular pots informed by her son’s toy collection, and with much of the coloured glaze work borrowing from the pastel palette of her stripy childhood bedsheet (itself hung at the entrance to the gallery space). These influences lend the sculptures an air of knowing innocence that counters the phallic protuberances or mammary prominences, with certain ceramics akin to animators’ fondness for inserting titillating tidbits into children’s cartoons solely for the parent’s enjoyment.

Art historical references abound as Barbara Hepworth meets Kelis’ euphemistic eulogy in Barbara’s Milkshake (brings all the boys to the yard); some earthenware forms nod to the plethora of priapic talisman found in Freud’s collection of curios; one a Roman Manu Fica amulets (historically used to symbolise sexual congress) and another Western culture’s most enduring emblem of motherhood the Madonna and Child.