Stepping into the Strange Clay exhibition at the Hayward Gallery is like emerging from a spacecraft onto another planet. As you wander about you encounter oozy undulating shapes, glossy wild colours, familiar objects, characters and creatures with an other-worldly quality.
Featuring 23 international artists working across recent decades, the exhibition examines the plasticity and the possibilities of ceramics.
It’s stunning that all of this was crafted from clay. I visited this exhibition with my 7-year-old daughter and she was amazed. While we strolled slowly around the exhibition her mouth moved a mile a minute excitedly explaining what she thought each sculpture was, asking me questions and exclaiming her opinions on them. Even if it was just “That’s weird!” I loved hearing her enthusiastic outpouring about the art.
“A tunnel full of fingers. Emojis! Mice and bugs, everywhere. A giant leaky squid – what is it leaking mum? Is it blood? Octopus toilet! I would not want to sit on that. I don’t know how they made all this out of clay. That’s so cool. I don’t like the way that one is looking at me. She has crazy hair! Let’s find more creations in the forest trail. Oooh rainbow lollies.” etc etc…
It’s a brilliant show to visit with kids who can resist the urge to touch and run around. Each parent can gauge that for themselves if they think their children would manage. This is a visual experience, not a hands-on activity.
No backpacks (unless worn on your front) or large bags are allowed in, to avoid accidentally smashing any clay creations. All totally understandable once you’re in there!
None of this dampened my experience visiting with a 7 year old. In fact it reminded me that kids don’t always need buttons and levers to have a stimulating time, and reignited my enthusiasm for visiting art galleries with my kids. I think they are particularly great outings when you can be one on one with a kid, to avoid sibling arguments and the need to keep eyes on multiple people.
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When we got home from this exhibition my daughter was so keen to get her clay out and start shaping it into wild creations and I’ve noticed she’s been drawing some images that are similar to pieces we saw at Strange Clay. True signs of an engaging exhibition.
Try to time your visit to see Strange Clay so you are able to walk around Southbank Centre after sunset. There are some dazzling illuminated art works currently on show, inside and out.
All these art works are free to see. While they are illuminated and it is the holiday season, these works are not Christmasy which is a nice alternative from most of the other light displays in London right now.
Some of the pieces move but even the ones that are fixed in place seem alive with energy. My kids both turn into leaping, twirling fairies under ‘Loomin’, an electric neon canopy sculpted by David Ogle, that makes the riverside trees seem to crackle with light on Queen’s Walk. We stood for quite a while warming up watching Fred Tschida’s glowing Sphere spin, it’s hypnotic.
My kids also love the projections on the right-hand side of the Southbank Centre, which they said was like what you see looking through kaleidoscopes. Artist Zarah Hussain has used computer code to create and animate two intricate Islamic-inspired patterns.
There are many others to see check out the full list HERE and hunt them all down!
All of the above makes for an excellent school holiday adventure. There are plenty of food and drink options in the market stalls around Southbank Centre as well as some free events; all happening as part of the annual Winter Festival.
On until 8 January
Entry £15; free to members.
More info on their website
Lights on until 8 January
More info on their website
Photos provided by Hayward Gallery / Southbank Centre.
We were invited to attend the Strange Clay exhibition.