Neville French was awarded the Clunes Ceramic Art Award last weekend for his work entitled Mungo Light 3. I am fond of a good cliche and the saying "it couldn't have happened to a nicer person" really fits the bill on this occasion. I have had the good fortune to meet the man himself and the saying really is incredibly apt.
Since 1982 Neville has taught and coordinated Ceramics at The University of Ballarat. When I visited last year, and was kindly shown the facilities, I was impressed that after nearly 30 years his passion for his students work appeared unabated. Past student and talented contemporary ceramicist Bridget Bodenham, who was with me at the time, explained that Neville's teaching, while incorporating many aspects of ceramic practice, focuses on the importance of learning the craft of producing functional tableware. A cause near to my heart!
Although I have yet to make it to Clunes I did see this piece earlier in the year in the context of Neville's exhibition at Mossgreen Gallery. Unfortunately the gallery was in a state of disarray when I visited, not giving the works their full justice and the staff were not keen on photos being taken. They did, however, let me touch the work. I don't think it would have been possible to deny me this (!) as the works call out to be caressed.
Neville's works hum with both solidity and fluidity. The curves appear never ending and the walls are... well... fat. I could have said voluptuous or curvaceous or even plump but to me they appeared beautifully and uncompromisingly 'fat' - thick with glaze and endowed with merging colours that give these static forms suggested subtle movement.
Neville has a lovely website that is well worth a visit - gorgeous images but also a concise and accessible artist statement.
I congratulate Neville on his win.