Artistically speaking we live in an age of blurring category boundaries, with design, fashion, film and video, painting, photography and graphic art et al continually shape-shifting, merging and bouncing off each other with bewildering rapidity, leaving little if any comfort zone for art critics and historians. Two of this month’s exhibitions move towards that capacious (and capricious) critical term of 'Realism' – photographer Tim Flach's philosophically disorienting take on the natural world, and the animal kingdom in particular, at Osborne Samuel , and painter Iain Faulkner’s hyper photo-realist explorations of human alienation in contemporary society at Pontone Gallery. Between them, it seems to me, they blur the boundaries between human and non-human worlds. Flach’s central preoccupation has always been with anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism, in particular the way we “shape animals and shape their meaning”, the kind of person who, as author Elias Cannetti once observed, “thinks in animals as others think in concepts.” Thus, in his latest show (and book), entitled ‘Endangered’, Flach conjures up, for example, some astonishingly unsettling, ‘almost human’ portraits – a ‘Proboscis Monkey’, a ‘Saiga’, a ‘Philippine Eagle’ and a ‘Crowned Sifaka’ among them – that really do make you wonder who is observing who and, even more than that, conveying the physical reality of that profound truth from quantum physics, that we are a part of the nature that we seek to understand. Faulkner, meanwhile, comes at things the other way in a sense. The cool realism of his depictions of ordered modern human life are somehow subverted and disrupted by the sense of his figures’ unease at their surroundings. Their essentially animal nature is very much at odds with the distinctly alien, hard and glossy, man made environment in which they find themselves. In a recent exhibition of work by the great contemporary Korean potter Kang-hyo Lee at Goldmark Gallery , the most expensive pieces, his giant (and visually astonishing) onggi jars, were on sale at over £22,000, a substantial sum by contemporary ceramics standards, but when compared to figures from the fine art world also using clay, Grayson Perry for example, quite extraordinarily good value. However, as Mike Goldmark likes to observe, that is not quite the point; in the same show there were small drinking cups for less than £65, works of equally consummate beauty, fused and crafted from earth, air, fire and water, that you could hold in your hand and put to your mouth every day, for rather less than a weekly shop – art to change your life simply. And it is precisely these qualities in ceramics that have inspired Goldmark to pursue the subject with such a passion, making him, in the process, the largest dealer in the country – all, as he likes to point out with relish, from the middle of his Uppingham based gallery, “in the middle of nowhere”. This puts the artists on their mettle too – this is a very public showcase and they are given every encouragement to produce the very best work they can. Another factor is Goldmark’s impatience with the idea of ceramics simply as a branch of fine art, really for collectors and for display only. All the artists he shows produce work that can, in principle, be used. Thus in the current show, by one of the great doyens of British ceramics, Walter Keeler, the teapots and jugs, cups and dishes, are, for all their wonderfully idiosyncratic forms and eccentric extrusions, still items very much for everyday use – and yet changing how we see the world. Nicholas Usherwood R OUND-UP 12 GALLERIES DECEMBER 2017 B lurring reality Handling elements from left W alter Keeler ‘Medium Pedestal Bowl With Extruded Handles’ Goldmark Gallery Tim Flach ‘Blue Throated Macaw Close Up’ Osborne Samuel Iain Faulkner ‘Break In The Journey’ Pontone Gallery