MORE Than Words, the first major retrospective exhibition by leading British ceramic artist Sara Radstone, brings together more than 50 works at York Gallery until June 10.

The show in the gallery’s Centre of Ceramic Art (CoCA) looks at how her work has changed and developed over the course of a career spanning nearly 40 years that has seen her constantly test and challenge many of the preconceptions of what ceramic art should be.

Designed by Martin Smith, the exhibition follows Radstone’s life in ceramics, progressing from her early works that reinterpreted the vessel form through to freestanding sculptures and installations, plus new work created by Radstone specially for the show.

Radstone works from the Anthony Shaw collection, on long-term loan to CoCA, sit alongside loans from the artist herself, and on display too is her installation Corpus, an autobiographical work of 44 clay books that explores themes of volumes, history and memorial. Look out too for a new film narrated by Radstone as she discusses her work and the making process.

York Press:

Chart, by Sara Radstone. Picture: Phil Sayer

Helen Walsh, York Art Gallery's curator of ceramics, says: "Sara is one of the most respected ceramic artists of her generation. Her work is always looking to push the boundaries of the genre of ceramic art, using highly personal themes to explore memory, history and place through clay. Often it is inspired by the small traces of human activity which are overlooked or discarded.

“This exhibition is a unique chance to see some of her finest works on show together and to consider how Sara’s emphasis on different ideas and themes have shifted during her career."

Sara has not let a broken metatarsal in her left foot – "the David Beckham injury", as she calls it – dissuade her from creating new works for the show or putting the retrospective together. "It happened about ten to 11 weeks ago, and the bone takes at least six to eight weeks to set and that's just the start; when I went back to the hospital, they said it would take six months to settle down, so it happened at the worst time possible," she says.

"I had to come up from London on crutches to set up the exhibition, but I just had to keep philosophical and luckily I came up with my husband who did all the driving for the week."

York Press:

Shroud 3 (detail), by Sara Radstone, 2017. Picture: Phil Sayer

The exhibition came to fruition as a result of Anthony Shaw collecting her work. "It was absolutely to do with Anthony. He first became interested in my work when I was at college at Camberwell," recalls Sara, who was brought up in Chelsea.

"He turned up at my degree show in 1979 and it was the first time I'd sold a work! He's continued to collect my work through all my radical changes and always stayed with it, and I'm among seven or eight people he's most regularly collected.

"So when he started thinking about gifting his collection on a long-term deal to York Art Gallery, he also suggested I should do a solo show, which was an amazing opportunity.

"This is the first time I've done a retrospective though it's not a complete retrospective, as although the 50 works come from the Anthony Shaw collection, my collection and new pieces, there's a big phase of my career that's not featured from the late-Nineties and early 2000s. That work featured a particular thinking process and it wasn't possible to arrange any loans."

York Press:

Pot with Interior Cave Painting, by Sara Radstone, 1980. Picture: Phil Sayer

What is on show, however, reveals her love of clay. "Why do I work in clay? It's a question that often comes up, especially as painters never get asked 'why paint?', but they're similar because the works start in a formless state and everything has to be about translation, whereas with resistant materials like metal or wood, it's a given. Clay, like paint, is flexible, adaptable and transformational," says Sara.

"It all goes back to my fascination with Plasticine as a child, when you can make anything with it, use your imagination and be creative with your hands. I always like to work in 3D, rather than 2D, so it had to be clay for me. Clay is where painting and sculpture can come together in a common meeting ground."

Sara Radstone: More Than Words, A retrospective exhibition of one of Britain’s leading ceramic artists, runs at CoCA, York Art Gallery, until June 10.

York Press:

Sara Radstone with her installation Corpus at CoCA, York Art Gallery. Picture by David Harrison

Special events during Sara Radstone's exhibition run

Wednesday, January 17, 12.30pm to 1pm.

Sara Radstone will give a lunchtime talk on the exhibition and her professional career of nearly 40 years. Included in the gallery entrance cost; no need to book.

Saturday March 17, 1pm to 2.15pm.

Sara Radstone will discuss her installation Corpus and the sculptural form of the book. This will be followed by a practical demonstration in the Studio; £10 per person (entrance to York Art Gallery included). To book, go to

Sara Radstone: A brief biography

Sara Radstone was born in London and trained at Herefordshire College of Art and Camberwell School of Art, London. Her ceramic sculptures are a highly personal exploration into history, memory and place, and the trace of human activity.

In her recent practice, formerly enclosed shapes are ripped open and residues of thoughts and the notion of ideas gradually accumulating over time are represented on parchment like surfaces Radstone has exhibited internationally and her work can be found in numerous public collections such as the Los Angeles County Museum, USA, Shigaraki Cultural Park, Japan, and the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.