Premier Award winner of the OBJECT ART AWARDSheld annually at Mangere Arts Centre in Mangere.
I wrote on this last year, in the hope of encouraging more ceramic entries – which were thin on the ground. Mangere Arts Centre is a City Council run five-year-old complex of theatre, studio and exhibition spaces off Bader Drive. The shows are well-mounted in good spaces and exhibitions cover the broad scope of the contemporary. It’s the premier show space south of the Manukau.
This exhibition and competition had four on the judging panel with three from the City Council’s galaxy of arts bureaucracy (Hannah Scott, James Pinker, Matt Blomely) and guest juror, celebrated jeweller, Octavia Cook. This is unusual with NZ competitions as we’ve customarily opted for the single viewpoint preferring that, for a variety of reasons, to the committee decision; a sort of judge the judge exercise that offers contextualisation for the decisions made. Useful if you are an entrant and potentially comforting if unselected. Not possible with a gang-of-four who, judging from the resulting show, did a stellar job.It was a hard prune, almost always a good idea, and the show is small, spare and spacious with consistently accomplished work across a range of genres and styles but all comfortably within ‘object’ as the substitute title of choice these days for work made using ‘craft’ media.
Which adds lustre to Richard’s winning jar – the company is excellent. As is the jar. It reflects one of Stratton’s obsessive exercises delving into the genesis and execution of a historical technique. In this case the immaculately matched agate pattern. Stratton starts at the end result, looking at some historical approach to employing clay and then systematically working back so that all steps in the process are progressively revealed and understood. They are then renegotiated to make a new work, often from another ceramic genre or possibly with his own political agendas engaged and illustrated by various techniques, or assembled with addenda of cast elements sourced from an array of sites, from local junk shops to family hand-me-downs. They are often complex and politically loaded works that demand time, reflection and often some comprehension of histories –from ceramics itself through to social issues that beset today’s cultures.
Treacle Hallucinogenic Urn is the title of his winning work and he is referring to the colour and the effect of the patterns from the agate inlay through the toffee-like glaze. When you look attentively you can begin to understand the thought that has been invested here – no visible joins! Agate is a technique Stratton has taken from Stoke-on-Trent industrial sources like Wedgewood and Whieldon (Walter Keeler’s current fascination) but reputedly Asian in genesis. Stratton has found it used in New Zealand early industrial wares that, of course, were made by artisans imported and immigrating from the Stoke potteries of late 19thC Britain. The form he used for his mould, one that he has employed several times in service to different ideas, was also taken from late Victorian industrial work but the stylistic source for the form is clearly of Chinese provenance. It’s these mixed lineages, threading their complex ways through histories and paralleling journeys by peoples and cultures that keep him in pursuit of new avenues and delving into musty, old, apparently obsolete, books about clay histories, processes or glaze recipes. He relishes nothing more than finding in one of them a new thread of references that might reveal some long forgotten procedure with potential for some all-singing, all-dancing combination that can comment upon the contemporary.
Here is an artist who really needs a journey of his own to research museums and libraries in England and Europe. His winning pot of gold will be some help along the way.
Other ceramists in the show were a couple of couples: Julie and Peter Collis with their bone china expertise and cast, folded or slumped vessels and Madeleine Child and Philip Jarvis with some Dorodangos and Mudball clusters and rings that turned out to be not ceramic at all (as a surreptitious poke revealed = far too warm) but mud (some of which may have contained some clay) worked by hand and marvellously mounted. You have to go see it for yourself. And ponder what was involved in the making. Fabulous.
Second prize in the competition is an expertly articulated, politically loaded lei from Fran Allison. Fashioned from French military fatigues it brings to the surface the thirty-year history of Mururoa nuclear testing that ceased some quarter-century ago but is purportedly in danger of collapse due to increasing instability.The resultant tsunamis of up to 15 metres height could radiate across the Pacific. Its title is My Place. ‘Nuff said.
Ross Malcolm took the third prize with a finely worked representation of the Woodrose, on the endangered list here because of collector’s activities responding to the intriguing formations of its wood-like root (hence the name) along with the reducing numbers of its pollinator, the short-tailed bat. Malcolm’s work, using rubber, nylon, wood, etc and called Pseudo Curio, draws attention to both the beauty of the of the form and the potential of its replication by means other than destruction at source.
So, it was the politically charged that engaged the prizes at this year’s OBJECTIVE ART Awards. It’s a fine show well worth a visit to Mangere Bridge and there is a small, but useful catalogue which images everything in the show.