Over the last forty years, Paul Astbury’s sculpture has evolved mainly through the medium of clay.  The early ceramic work of the 70’s, was constructed using complex industrial press- moulding techniques. The theme ‘Fragmentation’, included images of disintegrating machines, spaceships, capsules, dinosaurs and envelopes holding mechanical devices. By the mid seventies, this had developed into a new range of work - ‘Synthetic Strata’ - clay formed into artificial rocks, exposing electronic circuitry, robots and mechanical detritus.
   ‘Astbury’s work anticipated the post-industrial climate in which we now live. Instead of seeing industry as the progressive future, he projected it backwards into the paleontological past’.
Mark Del Vecchio, ‘Postmodern Ceramics’, Thames & Hudson, 2001.
By the late seventies, purposeful but less definable forms were being made, although still mindful of technological devices.
    His artefacts are about artefacts’, and ‘If a single feeling dominates his work it is an imaginative fascination with the spirit that permeates technical advance. New needs, new faiths, new theories: some overtaken and fossilised by events, others merely faint images on a nebulous future.’ John Houston, writer and critic.
Some pieces were deliberately shattered, partly reassembled with imperfect presence, leading to the ‘State of Flux’ of the early eighties. Here the clay medium was put aside for actual armchairs, cardboard boxes, plastic bottles, clothes etc, to be chopped and cut, their various parts redistributed to form diverse physical interactions. From the mid eighties to early nineties, more discarded found-objects from London’s streets were used but rather than pulling them apart, this time they were worked differently.  
   ‘Astbury has always been concerned with the chain of growth, decay and renewal and particularly the way in which man’s industrial march functions within this process.’
Garth Clark, ‘The Potter’s Art’, Phaidon, 1995.
The familiar was clad with purposeful ceramic tile shapes, tailored to cover each surface, mimicking contour. The idea eventually led to the cladding of a dead tree. From 1993, post industrial themes continued, this time using slip-cast moulded images of mass produced ceramics. The preference here was to keep each clay image in a wet embryonic condition, sealed within a transparent container, encouraging it to sweat and be partially obscured by opaque veils of moisture. The pieces represented living material and stood or fell according to their own inherent strengths or weaknesses.
   ‘Astbury’s sculptures offer a meditation on our understanding of creation, on the nature of its    ever changing cycle, and on the way civilizations develop and fall’.
Emmanuel Cooper, ‘Document’, 1999.
This body of work was exhibited at the Diorama Gallery in 1995, using the title, ‘Background’. Five years later in 1999, it was re-exhibited under the new title ‘Pulse’, accompanied by the special catalogue ‘Document’, an art work in its own right.
  Background by-passes the debate surrounding the boundaries between design and function, art and craft, use and context, replacing the hows for the whys; avoiding the concerns of method and control which have been overshadowed by the forces of time and nature.’
Julia Davis, Gallery Director, Diorama Gallery. ‘Document.’ 1999.
See ‘Document, a Body of Raw Clay Sculpture, 1999, Blue Sky One Publishing, plus, ‘Postmodern Ceramics’ by Mark Del Vecchio, Thames & Hudson. Garth Clark, ‘The Potter’s Art, Phaidon. Ceramics, Art and Perception, No 21, ‘Fired Earth - The Art of Paul Astbury’, written by Emmanuel Cooper. Profile, ‘Other States’, Ceramic Review, 200 edition, 2002.
Postmodernism, Style and Subversion,1970 - 1990 V&A Publishing, 2011. Edited by Glenn Adamson & Jane Pavitt. Shifting Paradigms in Contemporary Ceramics, Yale University Press, Clark/Del Vecchio, 2012.
Untitled     1978
Synthetic Strata series
medium: coloured ceramic
Tree in a Landscape   1993
Held Under Wraps      1993
Le Musee d’ Art Contemporain de Dunkerque, France  
New Work in Clay in Britain  1995
Copyright of Paul Astbury, 2006
All rights reserved.
Aberystwyth Ceramic Collection
  Craft Council Collection
Working drawing  for  ‘Black Jacket’,  part of ‘Prisoner’s Suit’
medium: charcoal on paper
size: 80x60 cm
Working drawing for ‘Evacuated Boxes’
medium: charcoal & paint on grey paper
size: 60x40 cm
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