with Wells Fray-Smith
‘I learnt how to have this hyper-localised experience, where everything happens within one place. That helps me to work in a sustainable way with the environment.’
Listen to the full interview here:
I’m Maria Roy Deulofeu. I’m an artist, designer and researcher. I mainly look at how craft can bring new narratives that move from a more anthropocentric and abusive relationship with the environment, to one that finds a way to co-live with other species.
I like to work with the materiality around me. That’s why I’ve been looking at soil as an element that talks about ecology, locality, politics. By working with soil, I’m not only looking at the subjects, but I’m also having a different relationship with learning how to relate with the environment.
What are you showing in The London Open 2022?
I’m showing a collection of ceramic pieces that I created during the first lockdown. They came through an archaeological mission in my garden.
Each piece represents a different strata of a hole that I dug in my garden. Some pieces, taken from the top layers, show how the soil close to the surface of the ground has evidence of human activities. These pieces also want to discuss how we’re neglecting our soil and not taking care of it. The pieces made from the bottom layers of soil show no human evidence the deeper you go – it’s only the geological and the natural strata of the site.
We are showing a documentary film that captures the process of this archaeological investigation, and it shows you building a kiln and firing the ceramic pieces in the garden. What was that full experience like, from digging to firing?
This hyper-localised experience is another aspect of the project; everything happens in one place as you describe. That helps me to work in a sustainable way with the environment and to better measure my impact when I work with it. It allows me to have a closed cycle of producing and sourcing from the land.
Hollow Earth, 2022, video, 01:50 mins
Works in the exhibition:
Hollow Earth, 2022
Hollow Earth, Fired ceramic vase from Horizon B, 2022
Soil ceramic sculpture
48 x 35 cm
Hollow Earth, Unfired ceramic vase, Horizon A, 2020
Soil ceramic sculpture
32 x 28 cm
Hollow Earth, Unfired ceramic vase, Horizon B, 2020
Soil ceramic sculpture
29 x 25cm
Hollow Earth, Unfired ceramic vase, Horizon C, 2020
29 x 33 cm
Maria Roy Deulofeu (b. 1993, Barcelona, Spain)
2020 MA Material Futures, Central Saint Martins, University of the Arts, London
2016 BA Arts and Design, Universitat Autonoma de Barcelona
2015 Exchange BA Ceramics, Academy of Design and Crafts HDK, Gothenburg
Selected exhibitions: The Wild Collective, Omved Gardens, London (2022); United Matters, MicroLab, Dutch Design Week, Eindhoven (2022); The Kocido ‘Incident’, London (2021); El·laboració d’un beuratge urbà, Aula46, Barcelona (2021); Design in an Age of Crisis, London Design Biennale, Somerset House, London (2021); UAL Graduate Virtual Showcase, Central Saint Martins, London (2020); The Search for (modern) pleasure, MIRA Digital Arts Festival, Barcelona (2017)
What makes London’s art scene so vibrant? What are the concerns of the next generation of artists? What insight does their work offer in challenging times?
This triennial exhibition showcases a cross-section of the most dynamic artistic talent from across the capital. Established in 1932, this much-celebrated open submission show features 46 London-based artists working across painting, sculpture, moving image, installation and performance.
Since the last London Open in 2018, the city has experienced the COVID-19 pandemic, the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, demonstrations demanding racial and climate justice, and widespread questioning of institutions and their structures.
The London Open 2022 traces the ways in which artists have witnessed and responded to these events with resilience and heart. In times of hardship and crisis, and when exhibitions were cancelled and moved online, these artists experimented with new sites of production and means of dissemination, from the kitchen table to the back garden.
The exhibition is loosely structured as a journey from the personal to the social, moving from individual to collective concerns, the cathartic to the poetic, the political and the environmental.
The artists were selected from over 2,600 entries by a panel of experts including collector Maria Bukhtoyarova, artist Shezad Dawood, curator and art historian Christine Eyene, gallerist Stephan Tanbin Sastrawidjaja, with Whitechapel Gallery curators Emily Butler, lnês Costa and Wells Fray-Smith.
Gallery 1, Downstairs
The relationship between our bodies and the material world kickstarts the exhibition. Rafał Zajko‘s wall-based reliefs appear like hybrid beings, processing the gluten found in wheat and barley flour, leaving us unsure if this is for machine or human consumption.Likewise, Madeleine Pledge‘s stretched fabrics and ceramic boots imply absent bodies and their physical role in manufacturing.
Materiality and belief systems intersect in Candida Powell-Williams’ handmade objects. A unicorn and swing inspired by medieval tapestries are fenced off by a trellis, prompting questions about the divisions between what is mythical and real. Alicia Reyes McNamara‘s paintings feature non-binary, shapeshifting figures drawn from various mythologies, from Meso-America to Ancient Egypt, to consider alternative notions of time and embodiment.
Gallery 9, Upstairs
This gallery features works that delve into the impact of technology, algorithms and quantification on our lives. In his series The Spectre of a World Which Could Be Free 2019, Ben Yau looks at the parallel rise of Neoliberalism and the CIA’s role in sabotaging the socialist government of Salvador Allende in Chile in 1973, bringing together both economic data and declassified documents.
Set in a parallel present reminiscent of sci-fi films such as Blade Runner 2049, The Underlying by Ami Clarke considers the implicit role of capitalism in environmental disaster.
Meanwhile, Rory Cahill and George Mackness offer a walk through a dystopian, corrupted digital landscape of the future, with an immersive soundtrack. They consider: what does a digital wasteland look like, what happens there and what is its afterlife?
Gallery 8, Upstairs
The artworks in this gallery reflect on family, identity and community. Seema Khalique travelled to Bangladesh to photograph two communities of transgender people called hijras. In this behind-the-scenes series, she questions the prejudices they face, revealing the economic hardships they endure alongside the strong network of mentorship and care they create.
Pioneering photographer, curator and writer Sunil Gupta took photographs of his neighbourhood on Walworth Road during lockdown. This work celebrates the increased relevance of our localities during the pandemic, as well as reflecting on the processes involved in created photographic images.
On three vintage TV monitors, Hussina Raja‘s short narrative films look at the subject of migration to the UK from post-Partition India, tracing the continued experiences of displacement and exploring nuanced notions of identity.
The works in the last part of the show focus on our relationship to and impact on the environment. In Agrilogistics (2022), Gerard Ortin Castellvi films in an automated greenhouse, in which the growth of tomatoes, tulips and chrysanthemums is controlled by cameras and sensors, in order to question the future of food production.
Having spent lockdown excavating her back garden, Maria Roy Deulofeu meticulously records each layer of soil like an archaeologist, collecting artefacts and ecofacts, before assembling a kiln to fire hand-thrown urns with the different layers of clay. The process is recorded in a video shown alongside the objects. Finally, a flock of parakeets cast in lead are scattered on the ground in Patrick Goddard‘s Blue Sky Thinking (2019).The parakeet exemplifies a non-native species increasingly common in London parks and hints at a mass extinction event, highlighting mankind’s role in the impending climate disaster.
See the full list of works here.
An illustrated catalogue is available to purchase from the bookshop.
Artists have generously made limited editions to coincide with the exhibition to support the Gallery’s education programme.