It's Art Darling (Part 1) - Edwin Beer Fishley and The Dead Frog

Published 4th March 2009

Now here's a few questions, are animals in aspic Art and is Damien Hurst avant garde or just recycling an old idea?

In a few words I cannot possibly approach a definition of the concept of 'Art', but I can comment on the work of Edwin Beer Fishley because; one as a professional antiques valuer I genuinely admire his work; two because I was actually brought up in Bideford (a stones throw from Fremington): and three because I am about to sell a collection of North Devon Art Pottery that belonged to the late Audrey Edgeler.

Edwin Beer Fishley came from a dynasty of Fishley potters based in North Devon who in turn absorbed their influence from their landscape and a long traditional of artisan potters typical to the area.

'To Mother Earth I owe my birth, then formed a jug by man' - so reads the caption on many Fishley pottery pieces any bunny hugger, son of the soil or potter cannot fail to be moved by the sentiment and not understand the emotive connection between art and nature.

edwin beer fishley pottery frog

So what of Damien Hurst and North Devon, where am I going with this? Well one of the more unusual pieces of the Edgeler collection is a pottery frog, the late owner's son wonders whether it was formed using a real one. I hope not, but can't help admiring anything of a seemingly everyday nature, meticulously observed, created with intent for its own sake and above all formed from the sod itself. Was it not a medieval superstition that believed the frogs were physical born out of mud itself?

I don't know whether the pictured Edwin Beer Fishley object is a paperweight, a Victorian art pottery tile or whether it is a sculpture in its own right, does it matter? I am drawn to it, it speaks to me in so many ways, unobtrusively beautiful, it reminds me of my home and my job, but above all it's a beautifully rendered dead frog and I think it's Art with a capital 'A'.

Saatchi eat your heart out and Damien, you were beaten by a century, keep up!

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