Exhibitions: Pots of passion: When Fred Aylward is not serving Vic Reeves, he likes nothing better than a sexy pot of tea. Iain Gale's mind boggles
Friday 07 January 1994
'Most everyday objects have a sexual connotation. My 'sex pots' started with the one called Three Spouter. I realised as I was making it that it was a kind of sexual, sensual thing. Then someone made me a tea cosy from purple satin, trimmed with fake fur. It looked like a pair of crotchless knickers and when I took it off the teapot it prompted a few interesting ideas. And there's this thing about the clay itself. It's organic.'
Organic or orgasmic? Walking round the gallery where Fred's sex pots are currently on show, the viewer would have to be a lifelong celibate not to recognise the thinly disguised references to our sexual equipment and what we do with it. It's an eye-boggling display of paps, peckers and pudenda, joined in the petrified slitherings of liquid clay. The titles say it all: Golden Drip, Nipple Bowl, Erect Pot, Black Hole Bowl. Droplets dribble from spouts, while alongside, looking like a barmaid's bosom covered in gold glaze, stands Big 'n' Brassy. Then there's the Gravy Love Boat, a deep pink V- shaped bowl. And who could forget Love End One - a shiny purple tumescence that at its most innocent might be a soggy folded pizza, but is probably intended to be something less savoury. But am I reading too much into it? 'Well, it was really conceived to be one of two bookends. And the fact that they were divided by the books seemed to suggest separation. Love is over - there's a drip coming out . . . But they're not all intended to be sexual.' Quickly, Fred finds Dali's Teapot, a bright red egg cup with a nose- like spout. Here's a clue to the serious side of his work. For, despite appearances, Fred is a serious artist. He studied ceramics at Goldsmithsin the mid-1970s and at heart is a Surrealist, holding Dali in such esteem that he follows the master's example by naming one of his creations after Mae West. But the Surrealists have made sex in 20th- century art their own and, like them, Fred plays games with the viewer. His four half Cabbages seem perfectly innocuous until you turn them upside down. 'Underneath they've got miniature genitalia. Some have little penises and some have little vaginas. It's all about cabbages reproducing.'
Turning from this cosy anthropomorphic bawdiness, however, you are immediately confronted by the blatant sexuality of Leda's Swan. 'One woman who walked up to it at the private view dropped her glass of wine when she realised what she was looking at.' In Fred's interpretation of a subject which has preoccupied artists since classical times, the swan's flesh - pink neck curves round to bury it's unseen head in its own back, which opens into a deep, dark pinkness. It doesn't take much imagination to discern in this the body of the ravished virgin. Here, as in all the pieces of clay that fill the room, it is the knowing imagination that eroticises. We all know what Fred means (nudge nudge). Like tea, innuendo is a British institution. As Fred says: 'I could just have shown twenty tea pots. It would still have looked rude.'
Tallberg Taylor Gallery, 142a Grenwich High Rd, London SE10 (081-305 2113) to 14 Jan
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