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oir-thir (2016)

Edmund de Waal

6 black glazed porcelain vessels in a steel frame vitrine and Corian plinth

The Pier Arts Centre, Stromness, Orkney



Installation, Sculpture, Craft


Ceramic, Porcelain, Steel

Physical Object Description:

6 black glazed porcelain vessels in a steel frame vitrine and corian plinth




32 x 30 x 7 cm

Accession Number:

PAC : 195


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society, 2016

Ownership history:

New Art Centre, Salisbury; presented by the Contemporary Art Society, 2016


Ceramics, Vessel, Language
Edmund de Waal has an enduring love for porcelain, or ‘white gold’, and holds a long fascination with objects. He is not only interested in their touch and form, but also in their ‘lives’ – how they are collected, dispersed or lost. De Waal’s obsession for objects was sparked during his childhood, when he was given a collection of fossils and stones by a local archdeacon. Literature, sound and architecture also serve as vital sources of inspiration for De Waal’s practice. De Waal is known for his porcelain vessels of neutral colours grouped together in custommade, highly minimalist vitrines. Because of their subtle variations in tone and texture, each pot De Waal produces is unique. With their little dents and pinches, they testify to the beauty of imperfection. The groupings are like rhythms, and the individual vessels notes of a musical composition or words in a poem written by De Waal.

oir-thir (2016) is an elegant steel vitrine with a heavy corian base that holds six cylindrical porcelain vessels in a dark palette. Their black and brown glazes and metallic textures recall found objects, in particular the kind of Neolithic or Iron Age relics previously unearthed on Orkney island. The work has been made especially for The Pier, and is a reposte to the holmr series, shown during wavespeech, an exhibition by De Waal and David Ward at The Pier in 2015. The Gaelic title oir-thir translates beautifully, though loosely, as ‘end of the land’ and picks up on De Waal’s deep interest in language.

The simplicity and elegance of De Waal’s work, together with his interest in engaging creatively with architectural space, offers a contemporary reflection on the Modernist themes in The Pier’s Collection, principally innovation in materials and experimentation in form. The Pier’s Collection contains works that chart the development of Modernism in Britain, as well as contemporary works that draw on the themes light, colour, landscape.

All rights reserved. Any further use will need to be cleared with the rights holder. Permission granted to reproduce for personal and educational use only. Commercial copying, hiring, lending is prohibited. The collection that owns this artwork may have more information on their own website about permitted uses and image licensing options.

For further information, please consult our section of our copyright policy.

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