Hylton Nel at STEVENSONSTEVENSON will present Things Made Over Time, a mini-retrospective of the ceramics of artist-potter Hylton Nel, from 29 June to 10 August 2024.

The plates, bowls, vases and sculptures included in this exhibition are shown chronologically as a timeline, starting with works created in the late 1960s in Kent, and concluding with plates made in 2024. Since the early 1990s Nel has inscribed the date of the firing onto his objects, their day of birth, so to speak. The works thus become like entries in the artist’s diary, memorialising the day, the thought, the sensibility.

Alongside these autobiographical notes, Things Made Over Time highlights the combination of curiosity, aesthetics and utility that is key to Nel’s practice. For Nel, there is no colour, shape, glaze or decoration that is incidental or without significance. He sees the repetition inherent to his vessels as infinite prompts for variation, stating, “Most of what I make are plates. The same shape over and over, but like people each one is different.” In a mode of continuous discovery, he plays with technical and scientific processes, noting:

“I’m very interested in the finished product, and all the steps of how to get it there. The colour of the glaze, slight variations of colour, because you work with contrast. All of that is interesting to me.”

Hylton Nel at STEVENSON

No concept is too large or reference too small

For his 2023 survey at Charleston, This plate is what I have to say, the curators observed that for Nel, no concept is too large or reference too small. Tracing his passage across Belgium, England, Gqeberha and the cattle-farming town of Bethulie in which he spent a decade, to his current home studio in Calitzdorp, the works in Things Made Over Time en-compass geopolitics, pets and sexuality, reflecting a contemporary life mediated through the long tradition of ceramics. In the artist’s words:

“When you look at the variety of things made over time, sometimes they are made around the same time but look very different from one another; other times things are separated by time, but look very similar. As far as I am concerned, they are the same, but in fact there are variations and changes. Things are ‘of a time’, there are flows, and sometimes they shift abruptly. I only see them clearly after a while, because at the time of making it you’re sort of in the middle of it. Time gives it distance. After a long time I can look at my things and think, that’s nice, but in that moment of making it, one is too close. You need time to see them.”

Things Made Over Time takes place concurrently to a fashion collaboration in which Nel’s work is the inspiration for the Dior Homme spring/summer 2025 collection, with his characterful cat sculptures enlarged for the spectacle of the runway at Paris fashion week.

What: Hylton Nel at STEVENSON Woodstock – Things Made Over Time

Where and when: STEVENSON gallery, from 29 June to 10 August 2024