Nicholas Rena: After Matisse

Nicholas Rena’s ceramics are compelling sculptural forms imbued with a sense of significance. Orderly yet vigorous, the colourful vessels evoke the palette and tone of the still life paintings of Henri Matisse (1869-1954). For Rena, Matisse’s use of colour represents ‘continuity with the past but using a new language’.

The vessels are first moulded into their precise shapes, slowly dried out, then refined and sanded before their firing. The smooth, polished surfaces are created by applying layer upon layer of emulsion paint. The narrow foot and flared rim of Rena’s bowls recall the studio pots of Lucie Rie (1902-1995), but on a monumental scale.

Rena studied architecture with Eric Parry (creator of the Holburne’s new extension) and subsequently began working with ceramics, retaining his ‘preoccupation with space’. Rena’s ceramic forms are solidly architectural, evoking the high polish of marble. in the Holburne’s Davidson Gallery with, in Rena’s words, ‘its astonishing quality of light and rich historical resonances’,┬áhis bowls have been transformed by vivid colour into a lively still-life composition.

[Holburne Museum, 2015]