Lena Peters: Saints and Spirits

By Paul Bailey

Lena has used the ceramic medium to nurture her passion for history and nature. These elements combined with her interest in folklore and mythology and mean that her work dances between the real and the unreal, creating illustrative objects which work to embody a narrative.

‘Saints and Spirits’ has a strange menagerie of shrine statues, evoking folk beliefs and household worship from across the world. It develops from her initial collection which imagined the results of an archaeological dig in the Northumberland National Park.

Ranging across continents and combining pagan and primitive beliefs with Christian iconography, the figures are part of a cadre of non-canonical Saints, conjured from the stories and animal symbolism of various peoples.

Commenting on the work Lena said, “In Saints and Spirits, a strange menagerie of shrine statues evoke folk beliefs and household worship from around the world. Ranging across continents and combining pagan and primitive beliefs with Christian iconography, the figures are part of a cadre of non-canonical Saints, conjured from the stories and animal symbolism of various peoples.

“With patronages ranging from fertility to ingenuity to protection, each figure is an icon for use in prayer and in ritual, creating a bizarre alliance of Christian doctrine and the pagan religions it tried (and succeeded) to repress. These figures beg the question: are they saints, are they spirits, or are they somewhere in between?”

She works on each piece by hand coiling, then decorating with underglaze before being glazed and have a golden lustre.

There is a lot of research undertaken for the work and she is consumed by myths and legends from around the world, as well the research behind the legends. This research is the platform for the work.

The pieces vary depending on size and shape so it’s difficult to say how long each one takes to make. Some have much more detail, either in the form or the decoration, and this obviously takes longer.

This new collection of work has emerged from a residency offered to the artist by the David Gill Gallery in London.

In her first show while at Central Saint Martins she looked at the objects discovered in 2015 in the woods of Northumberland National Park, just above Hadrian’s Wall, in the remains of a small settlement. According to archaeologists, they date from a period just previous to the construction of this wall, a time when the conflict between the invading Romans and the native Celtic Britons was at its peak.

They are unique in terms of style, motif and decoration, but have clear Roman influences in some of the stories as well as in the form and design, whilst being simultaneously stylistically different enough for it to be obvious that they were made by a different tribe.

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Paul Bailey produces Emerging Potters magazine and writes on modern ceramic makers. You can email him at Paulbailey123@googlemail.com

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