Eighty not out: reflecting on a long life in art

While West Cork-based ceramic artist David Seeger went to school with David Hockney, it was pioneering teacher Harry Thubron who had the most influence on his career, writes Colette Sheridan

David Seeger is currently showing at Uilinn in Skibbereen. Picture: Kevin O'Farrell

PIONEERING ceramic artist David Seeger is celebrating his 80th birthday with an exhibition at Uilinn: West Cork Arts Centre.

The Yorkshire-born artist, who moved to the Baltimore area in West Cork in 1990, says he influenced by “everything” he sees.

“There are colours that come into my work that just happen to fit the landscape around me. It’s coincidental with the kind of glazes I use and the preferences that I have. It wasn’t anything intentional. I would say the influences are subliminal rather than anything conscious.”

The constantly curious and evolving Seeger, who went to school in Bradford with the renowned British artist, David Hockney, has been making mostly one-off ceramic pieces for over 50 years.

Interested in philosophy, quantum physics and Jungian psychology, Seeger’s pieces often carry some thought or intention of what, for example, a pot actually is.

His ‘Black Hole’ series play with the fact that pots have a hole. His ‘Twirling the Edge’ pieces explore the ambiguity of where and what the line may be between the inside and the outside of an object. And his ‘Touching the Void’ series discovers how the hole may be seen as a black three dimensional form (for example, a cube). The only way to tell whether it’s real or an illusion is to touch it, which the artist encourages.

Visual art, says Seeger, is all about showing without words. “In my case, the answer to the question, ‘How do you make an inside-out teapot?’ is to make one. There is one in the show. There are many ideas like that in the show that answer simple ordinary kinds of questions.”

Seeger says his work is a kind of performance. He gives an example of a piece of sculpture that has two faces. “When you walk around it, the whole thing changes. It’s like watching a video. It changes shape as you look at it. There is no medium other than video that can get anywhere near that experience. Everything in my show is of that order. I’ve used mirrors at the back of quite a lot of the exhibition of pottery so that you can see both sides, the back and the front, from one view point.”

Seeger says he was privileged to be one of the early guinea pigs of a revolutionary teacher, Harry Thubron, at Leeds College of Art.

Thubron revolted against “the old-fashioned early Impressionist and English tradition of composition with figures. In some ways, he was misunderstood. But he was credited with what he called the ‘Basic Course’. That was a set of exercises we did in the first term using geometry and shapes, fairly simple abstract design.

“But essentially, Thubron was more of a spontaneous kind of Zen artist with subliminal influences. He was interested in getting drawings from a moving model, maybe like Marcel Duchamp’s painting, ‘A Nude Descending a Staircase’. There’s a kind of time lapse there. We did a lot of that kind of work. Thubron put a lot of emphasis on drawing and life drawing.”

Seeger taught art for many years, including at Leeds College of Art which later became part of Leeds Polytechnic. At the moment, he and some of his contemporaries from art college “are putting things on the record. My show and the book I published to go with it, are very much of that order. The bedrock of it all is the ethic we set out with, given to us by Harry Thubron.

“He based his work on the work of Sir Herbert Read, author of The Meaning of Art. Read avowed that art is as essential to a healthy person as food is.”

It’s an idea Seeger has been lived by ever since he first encountered it.

  • David Seeger’s exhibition, 80 Moving Still, is at Uilinn: West Cork Arts Centre until December 12


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