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Val Barry (1937-2018) trained at Sir John Cass School of Art in the late 1960s, before setting up a studio in Crouch End, North London. Barry’s work in stoneware and porcelain had clearcut forms, her individual hand-built and thrown pieces relating to natural abstract shapes in the landscape, but with their own quietly modern geometry and definition. Her characteristically flattened vessels with their crisply executed rims and subtly nuanced surfaces, often with rounded or curved bases, suggested an innate movement . They explored natural energies as well as the mysteries of containment, and expressed an appreciation of human-built structures too.

With other ceramists such as Eileen Nisbet and Elisabeth Fritsch, there was an exacting precision to Barry’s spatial drawing, but it was off-kilter too, moving away from the symmetries and conformities of most contemporary vessel shapes. This very restrained and concentrated work is deserving of reappraisal. Barry gave up ceramics in the mid 1980s to focus on bronze and other materials, working under the name Valerie Fox. Her large bronze sculptures had a commanding simplicity, monumental in scale and rich in patina, cutting the air with great clarity.

David Whiting

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