A Grain of Sand: Harminder Judge, Gillian Lowndes, Kate Newby, Sophie Ruigrok

1 April - 8 May 2021

To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand And Eternity in an hour


- William Blake, extract from ‘Auguries of Innocence’


A grain of sand is an exhibition that expands and contracts. With every inhale we expand deeper into the ether. With every exhale we draw in, to a closer tighter focus, opposite plains of consciousness complement and create each opposing reality.


Harminder Judge’s portals, in form, are reminiscent of a cosmic egg, their impossible sheen emphasising their nature as a conduit, taking our spirit from this small material world and transplanting it into the macro of the cosmos. The larger pieces are bound to the human form that made them, their size defined by the ability to reach out and work into the materials. This alludes to the intimacy of their creation - Judge often speaks of how the human brain is at its happiest when solving problems just within its reach. The macro can be resolved with a diligence to the micro. These large scale intentions consist of tiny liquid happenstance and its distillation, their content born from chaos and chance. The process of making them is literally in reverse, working from the surface then back into the structure that supports it. The finish is then excavated and polished into a final glorious pronouncement.


Sophie Ruigrok’s chalk drawings are composed of content sourced from personal photos of friends, art history, tarot and, most predominantly, the work of Carl Jung, suggesting that archetypal images perpetually recur in every human’s subconscious. Ruigrok’s use of symbols is integral, often treating them like a code, adding layers of meaning and hinting at a larger story beyond the edges of the picture plane. The sea, for example, might connote a primordial force, speaking to the origins of life. The moon suggests the unyielding rhythm of time. The hand speaks to the power of human creation, devotion and destruction. Symbols from the natural world are particularly prominent. Besides choosing these symbols due to their universality across time and space, Ruigrok opts to place her figures in contrast with nature to comment
on humankind’s place within ecology, in the hope of subverting an anthropocentric worldview, throwing humanistic hierarchy into question.


Generally of a modest, intimate scale, Newby’s work has been known to occupy entire spaces through architectural interventions. In doing so her delicate works advocate a heightened perceptual awareness and encourages consideration to the relationship between people and the environment where sculpture takes place. Deliberately situating her practice in the historical framework of Land Art, Newby takes an urban, domestic, feminist perspective on it. She offers an incisive rebuttal of this male-dominated artistic field with her preoccupation to create and underline a much more fluid, fleeting relationship with sites and materials. Smaller than some bigger than most confronts the paradox of its scale, being able to occupy a vast space whilst also containing the most intimate and small points of focus. Again, the considered and the accidental sit in complement of each other as intention is completed by happenstance. Newby always makes room for an element of the universe to inject itself into the work, be it through the patina of rainwater on metal casts or melting found broken glass to use as a ceramic glaze.


Gillian Lowndes was one of the ceramic world’s most daring, radical and original artists of the post-war generation. Working during a period when the majority of practitioners of the medium were concerned with the functional and decorative, Lowndes’ sculptures stand apart through their transgression of ceramic conventions. The work is timeless, seemingly the product of some extreme geological process, forged or grown over eons. There is a sense of excavating fragments from the shattered debris of the anthropocene. Small works exhibited on low plinths invite the viewer down into the minutiae, to consider things on an elemental level. Names like Mug Sculpture or Another cup of Tea hint at gentle domesticity, however with close inspection the surface of these objects look alarming and toxic. There appears to be some potent force present in these objects, one that defies the usual conventions of life, one that lives in a different realm. These are objects imbued with magical properties that threaten to move just as soon as you look away.