Flux & Poise: Paul Wearing

In his new collection, on show at Aberystwyth Arts Centre’s Ceramic Gallery, Paul Wearing’s hand-built forms list and lean into each other. Curated with an elegance that eschews all extraneous detail, there are just the pots – over seventy of them. Grouped predominantly in pairs, lips parted, they seem to cleave, to yearn towards one another with the not-quite-touching intimacy of an as yet young love. 

Flux & Poise is a stunning exhibition. And its poetry, both physical and associative, is encapsulated in the conundrum posed by its title. Wearing’s vessels, made heavy by encrusted layers of gritted slip, balance like monoliths en pointe, defying gravity. Yet there is no question of teetering. No, they hold themselves, as the title implies, in perfect equilibrium. 

“How has he done that?,” A woman asks her friend, as they peer, heads inclined so as to see underneath. 

A blown-up drawing of Wearing’s sketchbook shows how, but the achievement still seems magical. 

The vessels are as rock, rock that has been eroded – weathered by storm, sea, and wind. And their textures are gorgeous. Prevented from touching not only by gallery etiquette, but also by glass – the forms are all encased. This is clearly a necessity now that the Arts Centre has fully re-opened post-lockdown Saturday morning ballet classes resumed and already a troupe of six-year-olds in tights and leotards has been running in and out playing tag. Nevertheless, the forms’ tactility can still be sensed through their evocation of memories – of bare feet on broken-shelled sand, on shingle, or on slippery, seaweed-bound rock in search of pools. They are textures that we all know – innately. 

“Barnacles,” says the woman, “they remind me of barnacles.”