THE Visual Connections exhibition at Pyramid Gallery, Stonegate, York, brings together the latest works of partners Terry Beard and Stephen Murfitt.

Pyramid has enjoyed an association with Raku potter Murfitt for more than 20 years and shown the work of mixed-media artist and silk painter Beard on three previous occasions.

"The artists, who both studied at West Surrey College of Art, Farnham, in the 1970s, are married and share a studio space, yet produce abstract forms and pictures that have an entirely different form and feel," says gallery owner Terry Brett.

"Beard’s silk works start with abstract elements, such as colour and shapes of industrial or internal spaces, which she develops by playing with the composition and texture. Murfitt’s pots contrast against these abstracted coloured images with an organic form that is generally grey or white with a glistening metallic glaze."

York Press:

One of Terry Beard's silk paintings

Where the two art-forms come together is with the surface marks that both artists sometimes apply. Heavy texture in the application of paint or glaze and scratches in the surface may be seen in both artists' work and when shown together this feature is emphasised.

"Their artworks sit comfortably together in the same space, with the dark organic forms of the pots contrasting with and balancing the coloured silk paintings," says Brett. "The Visual Connection of the exhibition title is apparent in the texture and marks that enhance the forms of both paintings and pots."

Beard says: "I attempt to capture a sense of depth and form using abstract elements such as colour, colour relationships, texture, mark-making and composition," she says. "I like to develop structure within a painting, contrasting it with looser areas of colour, tone and texture."

Her childhood was spent in Canada, Ireland and Uganda, where she developed her interest in drawing and painting. She studied for a textile design degree at West Surrey College of Art and Design in Farnham and then at City of Birmingham Polytechnic, where she gained an MA in printed textiles. 

York Press:

Terry Beard standing by one of her artworks

For several years, she worked as a freelance textile designer and illustrator, combining this with teaching in colleges and schools, as well as developing her own ideas.

"My work is influenced by everything around me, from remembered, fleeting glimpses right up to things I saw yesterday," she says. "This could be landscape, flowers, architecture, water, lights, a particular colour combination, a feeling.

"I'm not interested in making obviously representational images; I am attempting to translate what I see into what I feel. I attempt to capture a sense of depth and form using abstract elements such as colour, colour relationships, texture, mark-making and composition. I like to develop structure within a painting, contrasting it with looser areas of colour, tone and texture."

Ceramicist Murfitt makes hand-built and Raku-fired, forms and vessels. "The effects of weathering, erosion and decay provide a constant source of reference," he says. "Small groups of related forms are hand built simultaneously. The slow and contemplative pace of coiling allows for considered developments and refinements to be made.

York Press:

Ceramacist Stephen Murfitt 

"Each stage of construction enables intuitive and selective marks and textures to occur. Glazing and firing methods are adapted to enhance the form and surface of each piece."

Murfitt made his first pots at Soham Grammar School in the 1960s. Helped and encouraged by art teacher Peter Askem, he was accepted on to a foundation course in art and design at the Cambridge School of Art.

He gained a degree in 3D design, specialising in ceramics, at the West Surrey College of Art and Design in 1977, and then a post-graduate A.T.C. at Middlesex Poytechnic, before combining teaching art with continuing to develop his own work.

York Press:

Stephen Murfitt in the studio he shares with Terry Beard

Farnham had provided a life-changing experience and many influences from fellow students, as well as inspirational tutors. Among these were Henry Hammond, Paul Barron and personal tutor Sebastian Blackie.

After several years as the ceramics tutor at Marlborough College, Stephen returned to his native fens in Cambridgeshire to establish the studio he shares with Beard. 

From those early beginnings, Murfitt has since focused on hand building and Raku-firing his forms and vessels. The making process has evolved slowly to allow for the development of new ideas, his work being a visual and tactile response to both the natural and built environment.

Murfiit's work has been exhibited widely and he is the author of The Glaze Book, published in 2002 by Thames and Hudson.

Visual Connections runs until May 13; opening hours are 10am to 5pm, Monday to Saturday, and 12.30pm to 4.30pm on Sundays.