New work by Richard Slee is currently on show at London’s Studio Voltaire (until 26 May)
Called Camp Futility, the exhibition showcases a series of new installations inspired by a recent residency at the US Alfred University. Slee was clearly fascinated by the early American pioneers, as well as the continuing US love affair with the great outdoors – think of their National Parks and all those summer camps. He takes objects and tools associated with these very American histories and re-works them to create typical Slee-esque hybrids, part ceramic, part ready-made. So among the wooden benches, he’s scattered various tools such as a saw with carefully made, fake wooden ceramic handle. As well as paying homage to the craft skills of the pioneers who had to make everything from scratch during their push West, these objects are also about the loss of skill. As mass production makes the handmade redundant, traditional craft skills seem as futile as the exhibition title, although ironically (and knowingly) Slee’s own expertise as a ceramist shows that all is not yet lost for crafts.