Gabriele Koch at Sladers Yard

PAINTER Simon Quadrat and potter Gabriele Koch share the gallery space at Sladers Yard, West Bay, in a powerful exhibition, which continues to 8th November.

A former president of the Royal West of England Academy, and a practising barrister for many years, Simon Quadrat was born in London in 1946, the son of Jewish émigrés who separately fled Germany in the 1930s. Simon remembers a cosmopolitan family life conducted in many languages, often all at the same time. His mother was a painter and a pianist and Simon painted and played piano from an early age.

He studied law at Bristol University and practised as a criminal barrister in the Temple in London and from 1985, in Bristol where he continued to practice on the Western Circuit becoming head of chambers in the early 1990s. After his first wife died in 1996, his thoughts turned more and more to his passion for painting. In 1999 he remarried and, with the encouragement of his new wife, Jenny, he gave up the law to become a full-time professional painter.

He taught himself to paint in his 20s mainly by rushing to the London art galleries and museums whenever he had a spare hour.

The faces that look out from Simon Quadrat’s paintings communicate directly with the onlooker.  Their eyes seem to tell stories and even evoke memories.  The paintings speak of common experience with an empathetic, gentle voice. They are informed by a highly intelligent and educated European mind.

Gabriele Koch is hugely significant to me – her early work, seen in an exhibition at the still-missed Alpha House Gallery in Sherborne introduced me not only to this great artist but to the work of African and Native American and Pueblo potters, which has been a lasting love affair.

Gabriele grew up in Germany. Her desire to work in clay was kindled in Spain when she spent a term in Zaragoza to study. She recalls: “Repeated visits to the interior had left a deep impression: an open desert-like landscape with simple horizon lines and strong earth colours from black to ochre to red. I also discovered the beauty of unglazed pottery, the surfaces enlivened by fire marks, and the strong sculptural forms of unglazed jugs, hints of Africa and early cultures.

“Coming to Britain with its flourishing ceramics scene made the realisation of this ambition more attainable.” In the 70s the Leach tradition was still dominant. Gabriele did not follow in his footsteps although she recognised his historical importance and shared his search for simplicity, restraint and beauty in a pot. Her interest in the elemental quality of ceramics led her to explore unglazed, burnished, smoke-fired work, investigating the direct interaction between fire and earth.

She has now left smoke-firing behind and has developed a more graphic language combining stoneware clay with porcelain. Describing her recent work, she says: the idea for this body of work came from looking at geological landscape and how different layers of sediment combine in rock formations. This led her to the idea of combining quite opposite materials like stoneware clay and porcelain.