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Another Competition…

This one is a major though. It’s the LOEWE Foundation Craft Prize. LOEWE is a Spanish high-end leather goods manufacturer which began as a craft cooperative in 1846 and now being run by its fifth generation.  They have provided a private Cultural Foundation since 1988 which supports creative, educational and heritage programmes in the fields of poetry, dance, photography, art and craft. One of their primary functions is to support design and craftsmanship and, since 2016 they have offered a competitive, annual, Craft Prize to celebrate excellence and craftsmanship that aims to set a standard for the future. Artists in areas of applied art such as ceramics, bookbinding, enamelwork, lacquer, glass, jewellery, metal, wood, paper or textiles etc are invited to enter.

The prize for the winning entry is Euros 50,000 (over NZ$91,000 ) and along with other finalists be featured in a catalogue and exhibitions in Loewe galleries in major cities around the world. The judging and initial exhibition will take place in Tokyo, Japan. Entries may be single works or a series – understood as a number of objects considered as a single artistic creation.

They state, in this search for excellence in craftsmanship,  ”Craft artists who leave their individual imprint on their work dig into the quicksands of art and claim the chance of making trades flourish once again, recycling and not forgetting the past. The LOEWE FOUNDATION aims to recognise outstanding works that show artistic vision and innovation, and which reflect the personal language and distinct hand of their maker. The LOEWE FOUNDATION aims to support artistic craft and acknowledge leading artisans from around the world at the forefront of their fields. The winning work should reinterpret tradition to make it relevant now and demonstrate the continuing valuable contribution to the culture of our time.”    So,  it seems they seek a contemporary, innovative version of the traditional that acknowledges its history somehow…

As you’d expect with a European based event, entry process is a tad complicated. Two to five good images or film of the entry, a portfolio showing up to five other works from the maker’s career,  CV information with short biography, a brief conceptual statement, copy of passport or ID document.

Initial judgement will be from images and by a panel of nine experts consisting representatives of LOEWE  and museums and magazines featuring Craft, plus expert makers of high reputation. Following this initial decision the resultant 15-30 finalists are notified and the selected works will be sent to Japan for the final decision by another, different panel of eleven experts. This panel is somewhat different in that the only artist involved is the previous year’s winner (Jennifer Lee – ceramist, U.K., was winner for 2017) The remainder are Heads of Museums and Arts Trusts, well-known designers and architects and representatives of LOEWE. All organisation and costs of transport to Japan plus insurances are covered by LOEWE. Winners are also taken to Japan at LOEWE’s expense and as their guests.

 

Time is short this year as entry must be made by end of October. Initial judgement will be made in January and finalist’s works to be in Japan by April 1, 2019. Decisions announced in May, 2019. However it’s not impossible if you have good work on hand plus good images of earlier work.  Entry fee not required. There is a heap of information about copyright issues for both entrants and to protect LOEWE, plus, clearly, LOEWE intend to control all press information.                                                                                            Obviously you need to be confident  about your work and CV but if so this seems aimed at being one of, if not the, world’s major competitions for craft media as other European events reduce in presence or have narrow constituent aims and some Asian competitions are either implicated in discredited practices while others simply do not offer access to international press and resultant prestige for finalists. Much more information can be gained from https://craftprize.loewe.com or www.loewe.com or www.blogfundacionloewe.es or https://craftprize.loewe.com/en/faq

It would be great to see a Kiwi among the finalists.

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Rick’s Emergent Award and Things to come…

This morning the winner of the Quartz Museum’s inaugural Emergent Practitioner in Clay Award was announced by our Prime Minister, in her role as Minister for Arts, Culture and Heritage, in a gracious short speech. Jacinda looked as delighted as I feel sure that the winner of the $10,000 must be. His name is Oliver Morse, he’s from Wellington and the winning work is entitled House of Dee and here are images of its front and back, I am unsure which is which and it really doesn’t matter, but it seems, from its presentation, to distinctly have front and back. It’s a tad hard to tell but I assume the pot is round. Jacinda displayed it with the large aperture to the front so maybe she understood how it should be.winner #2_MG_6279 medium res-1 (2).jpg

The Award was judged by the Trustees for the Rick Rudd Foundation, Collector Tom Seaman and artists Paul Rayner and Rick Rudd. No technical details are given but its size can be judged by watching Jacinda hold it and it’s somewhere about 30cm high maybe a bit more. Go to…  https://youtu.be/uch  It looks hand built of terracotta clay with a white slip as background for the hand scribed and painted figurative surface illustrations. More importantly, the judges’ statement mentions that “the work could only have been made in the 21st Century….” And that’s dead right. Much of the new work seen in international sites is either loosely handbuilt and artfully, extravagantly textured with vibrant colour that takes it past the natural base often cited as source. Drips and blobs, lumpen and fissured, slumped and perforated surfaces and all in glorious technicolour. The other principal avenue is the figurative – modelled or drawn and painted, in toto or simply parts. Works present narratives or play with organised religion, sexuality or gender; they are often sourced in the feminine or the domestic but further viewing can reveal something deeper and darker. Always however, the hand-built, and often loosely so, is paramount and demonstrable skill often eschewed – even if often there.

Go to some of the online sites for art or ceramics and find their lists of the ‘new artists in clay’ and these two genres will be much in evidence. Or open any one of about five or six new print publications on the ‘new expression in ceramics’ and there are many, many more. And with few repeats of names. So this really is quite a movement happening. Possibly the strongest for a very long time.

Oliver Morse’s exhibit taps into this figurative genre. According to the press release, he has a history in painting and theatre and the work is autobiographical. That’s hard to see from the images but we’ll look forward to seeing more from this artist who has been but two years in this interesting avenue, one with a long history, from ancient Egyptians, Persians and Greeks to the Peruvian Moche and Mexican Aztecs to Majolica and Delft of European origins. It’s the stuff by which cultures and civilisations are known.  Morse’s painting is charmingly loose as it floats around the vessel, which the judges stated, “… is simply canvas…the drawing confident, lively and sketchy, in keeping with the vessel itself.” As can be observed from the other side, he has not left the interior unembellished either. There is a dark figure, horned, painted inside. Is “Dee’s house” where the devil lurks one wonders? There is no artist’s statement to offer some clues but the lightly clothed figures around the outside surface might suggest some contemporary bacchanale? A wild night in Wellington?

Speculation aside, the Trust intends to offer this Award triannually and focus particularly upon early career artists. The criteria, about the word ‘emergent’, which apparently confused some of the 65 entrants this year, will be clarified then. There are some 37 works selected by the judges that will be on exhibition at Quartz until March next year. This includes Morse’s winning work so you can see what moved the judging committee. Meanwhile he has a most useful $10,000 to invest in his work and career. We’ll look forward to seeing what his win brings to his oeuvre in the future.

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Images, courtesy Quartz Museum, by Richard Wooton.

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Robyn Stewart – 1938-2018.

One of Robyn’s large semi-enclosed pieces that are, perhaps, her signature works. This one, 52cm dia. x 14cm h., is finished in burnished and matte surfaced style.

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Robyn Stewart came to clay in the mid-70s, like many others of the time, after another career. She learned some basics from Pat Perrin and Margaret Milne knowing she was moving, with family, to a Northland farm where there was ample earthenware clay beneath the thin crust of topsoil. She wanted a creative outlet while there and it was while she was attending classes with Margaret Milne that the students were shown a film about the Native American pueblo potter, Maria Martinez, from the San Ildefonso pueblo near Santa Fe in New Mexico. In it Martinez demonstrated her re-making of traditional vessels –something that had faded in vigour due to the advent of enamelled tin pots and jars well suited for cooking and uses for ceremonial vessels reduced as the culture declined. Martinez led a revival that economically revitalised not only her own San Ildefonso Pueblo but, along with Nampeyo from the Hopi tribal group, did much to restore cultural values in several tribal areas by identifying and pioneering a route to economic independence through making pots in traditional styles. This activity generated toward Santa Fe becoming the second most valuable art market in the USA. Maria Martinez’s method of leavening the clay with sand, coiling, burnishing and dung firing (loosely covered with discarded vehicle number plates) immediately struck Robyn as a perfect methodology for her intended activities on that Northland farm.

She experimented and after about eighteen months of failures where improvements came frustratingly slowly she succeeded in producing some small, charming, burnished vessels with Maori designs that she continued to expand into a considerable oeuvre over the course of her lifetime of potting. She was never tempted to join the ranks of domestic ware makers – dominant at the time. Within NZ she pioneered burnished vessel forms and experimented boldly with scale, form and decoration. Early on she went to a Northland Polytech Summer School where she met Manos Nathan who had returned to his marae from the UK in response to a call from his seniors. He, a design graduate, was wanted for carving and worked at Matatina learning from Mauri Marsden. Nathan had books brought back by his father who had been with the party that went to the USA as part of the Te Maori exhibition that toured to several main centres. The books were on traditional Southwest potting, Nampeyo and Maria Martinez. So when Robyn met Manos there was much to discuss and they subsequently worked together. Manos found the burnished surface a perfect vehicle for his carving and developed new forms in clay for Maori traditions in returning umbilical cords and afterbirths to home soil, and Urupa uses. Robyn was subsequently invited to join the first art hui that Manos set up at his marae at Matatina and from those hui the Kaihanga Uku group of clayworkers was formed (although they called themselves ‘the muddies’! Robyn was made an honorary member.

Robyn subsequently travelled to many places to teach her ‘low tech’ method of making in clay, often returning several times to places such as Rarotonga, or Zimbabwe and other east African countries, Indonesia and India. Wherever she landed she made friends through her enthusiasm, warmth and enjoyment of her meditative processes. Her work had enormous appeal due to scale, tactility, a refined gleam of surface and the elegant simplification of design. It was interesting to hear the credit she gave, for the immaculate finish, to her jeweller’s ‘bloodstone’ – her principal tool, apart from her clever fingers. Vessels would range from a few centimetres to more than 50cm across and her work was regularly in great demand by various government departments for official gifts, for they fitted their criteria to perfection.

Robyn, always was sensitive to the troubles of others and kind and thoughtful in her responses. She has maintained a low profile in recent years due to health issues she could not overcome. Her friends will be relieved that she is no longer suffering but will miss her and mourn her passing.

 

 

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Obituary: Janice Tchalenko 1942-2018

This is an edited version of  Tanya Harrod’s The Guardian obit for her friend, Janice Tchalenko who will be known and remembered by many of our senior practitioners.  She bridged the gap between art and industry.

Janice Tchalenko, has died aged 76. She was an admired ceramicist, designer and artist who collaborated on textiles and ceramics with Designers Guild and Next Interiors, and created a series of satirical ceramic sculptures with Roger Law of Spitting Image.

Setting out in the 1960s and 70s she made fashionable domestic wares, “brown pots”, informed by the work of Michael Cardew and Bernard Leach, working, she ironically noted, as “a peasant potter in Peckham”. But in 1981 she revolutionised the field, shocking many studio potter colleagues, by evolving glazes of great richness and depth of colour to adorn reduction-fired stoneware; painting, sponging and slip-trailing complex semi-abstract decorative schema on bold simplified shapes; using piscatorial and amphibian casts as handles and knobs; and taking inspiration from the ceramics of the Middle East, from the capricious mannerist Bernard Palissy, and from European rococo earthenware and porcelain and 19th century art pottery.

A series of large thrown bowls, flared jugs with flowing handles and press moulded dishes followed – magnificent objects, much admired and much imitated, elsewhere and here in NZ. But her work was, in tune with her socialist politics, aimed to reach a wider audience. From 1983 in collaboration with Steven Course at the Dartington Training Workshop, renamed Dart Pottery in 1984, she designed tableware ranges. These  – Poppy, Black Rose and Leopard, were an instant success, winning both the Manchester Prize for Art in Production and the BBC Radio 4 Enterprise Award in 1988. Production at Dart, initially hand-thrown, became more mechanised as demand soared. Decoration, however, was always hand-painted using techniques evolved by Tchalenko.

Tchalenko was born in Rugby, Warwickshire. After attending Manor Park primary school, Janice won a place at Barr’s Hill, a girls’ grammar school. Further education was discouraged by her family and at 16 she became an accounts clerk in the same GPO building as her father and brother. Aged 17 she took the clerical officer exams for the Foreign Office and moved to London where she dealt with embassy accounts.

In 1964, she married John Tchalenko, a geologist, and later a researcher and filmmaker, who had moved into a flat in her building. Because he was of Russian descent, Janice was deemed a security risk and lost her Foreign Office job.

She decided to become a potter, learning to throw at Putney School of Art, working as potter’s assistant and as an art therapist at the Priory hospital. From 1969 to 1971 she took the vocational pottery course at Harrow School of Art, a highly practical training that taught production throwing, kiln and wheel building and glaze and clay technology.

She became an outstanding thrower and was recruited by Colin Pearson to teach the skill at Camberwell School of Art (1972-87). There she encountered the ceramic artist Glenys Barton, thus meeting a whole generation of outstanding female graduates from the Royal College of Art – Alison Britton, Jill CrowleyCarol McNicoll and Jacqui Poncelet. They partly inspired her to turn to freer forms and vivid colours as did her travels with John in Russia and Iran.

Tchalenko went on to teach at the Royal College of Art (1981-96), being elected a fellow of the College in 1987.

Roger Law, who had long admired and collected her work, became an unexpected collaborator in 1993. With the Spitting Image workshop, Law and Tchalenko created startling ceramic sculptures of each of the Seven Deadly Sins, in two versions, shown at and bought by the Victoria & Albert Museum, and also purchased by the British Council. In 1996, at the Richard Dennis Gallery, Law and Tchalenko showed Modern Antiques, Toby Jug-like caricatures of famous potters from Palissy to Leach, and editions of vases and bowls writhing with lizards and fish.

There were further collaborations – with the furniture designer Jane Dillon, the sculptor Richard Wentworth, with Nick Mosse’s workshops in Ireland and with the ceramic designer Sue Pryke – Tchalenko’s house in Therapia Road, Peckham, was a nexus for artistic interchange. In the 1990s Tchalenko became an ambassador for British ceramics, curating exhibitions for the British Council and holding workshops all over the world. In 1992 she had a retrospective exhibition at the Ruskin Gallery, Sheffield. Crossing boundaries characterised Tchalenko’s career.

Seniority brought fresh friendships and further experimentation, including a turn to porcelain, printmaking and a series of large painterly ceramic panels. Her final exhibitions were in France in autumn 2017. She was included in the remarkable L’Expérience de la Couleur at the Musée National de Céramique de Sèvres in Paris alongside  work from Josef AlbersSonia Delaunay and Yves Klein. While at Hélène Aziza’s gallery, 19 rue Paul Fort, Paris, she showed among friends – Elisabeth Fritsch, Britton, McNicoll and Poncelet. Her work is in many public collections including the V&A, the Ashmolean Museum, the British Museum, the Fitzwilliam Museum, Los Angeles County Museum and the Musée National de Céramique de Sèvres.

Tchalenko is survived by John and their son, Luke, and two grandchildren, Thea and Kira, and by her twin brother, David.

For images of the work that made her world-famous go to http://www.janictchalenko.com/archive/#/1980-2000/ Also on the site is work made prior (from her brown pot era and later work made as a mature artist.

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On Europe…

There are off-shore events and competitions you might like to consider. Here are a couple in Europe that will be happy to receive entries or attendances from Downunder if you’re prepared for the costs involved…

ITALY: One of their most prestigious galleries for ceramics is in Milan. Officine Saffi is only seven years old (2011) but very active and has gained a solid reputation for good shows and top level artists. They apparently host this international competition to find new talent for their gallery. They are funded by a ceramics materials manufacturer and also sell materials, rent out studio/workspace, offer residencies and have a publishing house that produces art catalogues and the quarterly magazine FRAGILE (www.fragilemagazine.it) They are called Officine Saffi and included in their stable are, Torbjorn Kvasbo, Anders Ruhwald, Ann van Hoey, Lucie Rie and Hans Coper to mention a few you might know, plus Jim Cooper exhibited there in 2016/17.

Prizes: Eur. 5000 each to Art and Design sections plus…

Residencies in the following places-

EKWC – Netherlands; Int Ceramics Centre – Sasama, Japan; Seinajoki – Finland; ICRC Guldagergaard, Denmark; Faenza – Italy, and Museum Mondari – Italy.

Plus – Cover Award and Article Award in FRAGILE Magazine.

The Jury, as you always get from Europe, is huge and comprises eight members headed this time by Felicity Aylieff from Royal College in London. Ranti Tjan who heads the EKWC is also on plus assorted designers and institution heads.

The competition details are…

OPEN TO ART Ceramics Award 3rd Edition

Deadline September 21st

Entry by 3 images of the work, plus CV, portfolio and written description. You may enter the art or the design section. Cost? 50Euro if over 35 and 35 Euro if under!

Further info at http://www.concorso@officinesaffi.com

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Then there is…

The European Ceramic Context 2018 will be held on the island of Bornholm, which is Danish but off the coast of Sweden in the Baltic Sea, between 15/09 and 11/11 this year. It happens once every four years. All interested in ceramics are welcome.

There are Masterclasses, a conference, many exhibitions and seminars for all levels. There will be studio visits, and artist’s talks plus workshops that intend to investigate current issues and enter discussions around ceramics, artistic development and theory, plus historic and ‘wild clay’ tours.

The two principal exhibitions are a main feature. One is ‘Open Call ‘ where curators, artist’s groups and individuals were invited to apply. Through this they hope to show collaborative works, experimental pieces and current activism etc. They received hundreds of applications for this category and have selected 51 to exhibit.

The other show is ‘CURATED’ curated by six curators who have nominated artists from their region Selection still to take place.

Bornholm is very beautiful.  I have seen it – houses and cottages are all lime-washed with yellow ochre or iron oxide-red colorants and most foliage is either a very dark or a silvery soft pale green – it all looks gorgeous. I can recommend the many galleries and antique shops while the art gallery, but a few years old, is breathtakingly contemporary with a minute stream running through the middle and enormous cows grazing in the fields outside!  Bornholm is a couple of hours by ferry from Malmo in Sweden. It’s in the Baltic Sea, with Finland, Russia, Poland, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Sweden and Denmark all unseen but close. If you are going to be in Europe this September or October, maybe give it some thought. More information is available from www.europeanceramiccontext.com

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Musings…… on the current rash of award shows

Entries for The Portage Awards must be in by August 6th. So, just a bit over a week to go. I imagine kilns are warming up all over the place by now.  Usually by this time Te Uru have announced who is to be the sole judge.  However, we have had no announcement that I have seen. Seems Te Uru may have finally complied with our long-standing tradition of no judge named until after entries are in.  This was begun with the Fletcher Awards back in the 1970s and our single, secret jurying system stood us well for many years and was favourably received by entrants from overseas who enjoyed the integrity in the system, which was unique to us.  Like with the Fletcher, the Portage has employed jurists from off-shore following consultations of various sorts via a diversity of means.  Last time, in 2017, precedents were overturned by choosing the judge from within New Zealand and Emma Bugden did the honours. This time it could well be that we will again have a home-based juror because the published timing probably does not allow for an off-shore process. While entries must be received in a bit over a week, there is until October 27th for the finalists to be announced and then only until November 8th, less than two weeks, for the Award announcement evening itself. Compare that timing with how it used to be when jurors were drawn from far off-shore…  Or maybe we have gone back to Australia, which is easily accessible- but then we should probably save the fare and just take one from here as any Aussie worth his/her salt with the know-how to be the Portage juror is pretty aware of what is happening here. The exhibition will run until February next year.

There is a new player on the scene this year with the inaugural Emerging Practitioner in Clay Award at the Quartz Museum of Studio Ceramics in Whanganui. An event intended to be triannual. With a prize of $10,000 it will be judged by a jury of three – Rick Rudd, (whose concept this is,) Paul Rayner and Tom Seaman – two studio ceramists and a collector, all Whanganui based.  Those regarded as finalists will be announced any minute now and they have a couple of weeks to get their works transported to Whanganui. The announcement of the awards will take place Monday 24 September and the exhibition will run until the end of March next year. There is no mention of any opening event to celebrate this new award. Watch this space…

Just who or what constitutes an ’emerging practitioner” is not clarified. But if you see yourself as one, I hope you entered. The jurors will have your self-penned bio and decide if your assessment is, or is not, accurate and if they consider you have already emerged – you have to try for the Portage I guess. However, they ask for up to 20 works in printed image with just one of those works, identified by you, as the entry piece. That should inform most experienced jurors on where any emerging practitioner might be – and smart is any entrant who uses that condition fully and well. The work must have been made after June 2017, there’s no entry fee and no runner-up prizes. So, good luck to all who enter!

Then, even more… UKU Clay Hawkes Bay is a new national ceramic award to be held in the Hawkes Bay region (obviously, and as uku is Maori for clay that is not where the repetition ends!) This one, under the re-named Ceramics New Zealand, is to be biennial and entries for that close on August 31st. There is an entry fee of $25.00. Opening event for this award will be on 27th October at CAN Gallery in Napier and it runs, not for the whole summer but a bit under four weeks at November 21st.

There you go, three national competitions all closing and being judged in the latter part of the year- all requiring a single work (which of course might be more than one piece) and the show to have about 60 exhibits. All on exhibition at the same time of year. A traveller around the North Island could be excused for wondering….   Seems somewhat unthinking by the later events to have these juxtapositions but as Portage is annual, and the other two biannual and triannual I guess that gives them time to confer, rethink and readjust before the next agglutination of look-alike events. Conceivably someone who was unselected for the earliest could enter the same piece for the next and if still unsuccessful enter the third. Does that matter? Or enter identical works (or close to it – there’s plenty around) for each, win all three if the work is judged suitably wonderful.

I feel a bit like something from Doctor Seuss,  saying, “Oh the riches we shall see”!

 

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The Leading Ladies.

Leading Ladies is a historical ceramics exhibition currently at Te Uru in Titirangi. The Gallery invited me to curate a show of early women potters, in part as counterpoint to the generous numbers of male potter surveys and retrospectives prevalent in recent times. Fair enough, mid-century ceramics was very much a period of male dominance with the Anglo-oriental here, and everywhere it had a presence, also for Abstract Expressionist clay in the USA and the Sodeisha movement in Japan – all very male, all very mid-century. (Could have been something in the water perhaps?) However, as we called a chapter title in Cone Ten Down – ‘In the Beginning was Earthenware’. Indeed, prior to the Anglo-oriental era the earliest studio ceramics in this country were made by women. Although, there were some immigrant, industrially trained men who came to start, or work in, our infant clay industries, as early as the mid-1800s.

The pioneer women in the early 20thC had no books such as A Potters Book as guide but required to find out for themselves – often the hard way.  They dug and prepared their own clay and built their own kilns, firing initially with wood or coal and slowly learned and shared what they knew. Some went off-shore to learn more, others we know not how they acquired information. That there were a number is without doubt and there is a scattering of records in old pamphlets, newspapers and art catalogues telling us of their presence although we don’t always know their work.

My own search for suitable works for Te Uru’s exhibition was necessarily confined to private collectors in the Auckland area. There was little budget for distant research and while there are some great pieces in public collections most major galleries require six months notice for borrowing collection works and it’s really necessary to actually see and handle potential works for maximum information. You can guess how something was made from an image, but its heft can give definitive information.

While there was some activity in decorating cast forms produced, often by industry, in the early 20th C. I was concerned to source only hand made ceramics. I set about visiting the private collectors I knew such as our own John Parker who was a great supporter of both Briar Gardner and Olive Jones – the two Auckland based early potters. I knew other collectors and checked several out for their holdings and apart from Gardner and Jones saw works by Elizabeth Lissaman and Elizabeth Matheson as named potters. There are other works from perhaps around the early 1900s in some collections that have no provenance and dates and makers are unknown. Then I came across some new clay works that I had not seen before. But these had a name. They were by Minnie Frances White who had some reputation as a painter and a member of the Phoenix Group of post-Elam artists led by John Weeks. It transpired that she too made wheel thrown and decorated pieces, but also slab-built works in an Art Deco influenced style with abstract linear decoration in strong diagonals on sometimes dynamic planes. White’s work in clay was not known to me previously and this is the first NZ-made, contemporary, Deco-styled work I have seen. I assume that her Deco characteristics in richly coloured slips on those strongly planar forms could have derived from her extensive art schools training plus the on-going contact with practicing artists in Phoenix Group who were abreast of current trends like Art Deco which followed and is, in some ways, an extension of Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts styles.

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Minnie F White.

Anyway, hers were not the only fresh and interesting finds in the project. Elizabeth Lissaman’s fine 3D modelling of frogs and waterlilies on and around a dish, fitted perfectly with her slip and glaze painted decorations. She was, so it seemed most interested in applying her characteristic decorative designs to a range of forms that stayed modestly scaled and cleanly surfaced so as to better display her designs. She was, of all five women, clearly the one most interested in surface.

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Elizabeth Lissaman.

The other Elizabeth, Ms Matheson, not at all, as even with quite extensive searching I could find but one piece with sgraffito fish by way of surface embellishment. The remainder were quietly coated with single hues of glossy glaze and reliance upon clarity of function for their presence.

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Elizabeth Matheson.

Briar Gardner made, by far, the tallest works and viewing the film of her working, which accompanied the exhibition, her energy levels were impressive, especially considering she would have been in her fifties when the film was made. Whether shovelling coal or taking down the wicket, vigour was very much in evidence.

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Briar Gardner.

As for Olive Jones, without question she possessed the greatest range of skills. And so she should considering she had by far the longest and most wide-ranging training in ceramics. The show’s only cast works were hers, in finely modelled Maori canoe prows or female Grecian-mode figures – forming bookends, and they show how considerable was her expertise for she made every stage. There were two partially reduced, thrown, copper red vases that had been fired in saggars. Apparently their mixed red, green and black surfaces made them amongst her most sought-after work. Most impressive was the ‘Islamic lustre’ (so called because the potters of the Middle East famously used the technique with great finesse although it was around before the advent of Islam). Induced while the kiln is cooling or through a third firing it is sometimes known as ‘true lustre’ because it’s brought about via heavy reduction rather than bought in a tiny expensive bottle. Jones made a simple spherical vase glazed in ‘true’ copper lustre and despite being quite small, its surface positively glowed a soft melon pinkish-red colour.

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Olive Jones.

All was displayed, at eye level, on and in specially-made wall shelves and boxes. Putting such small works on a plinth or table-top seemed inappropriate as they were quite humble domestic pieces and not intended for a white cube display, as art. Never their intention. And they’d be lost on a table-top. The wall shelves, so I learned, are a very English (working class) mid 20th C. thing and mostly used for the display of household chattels, often ceramics. So that seemed very appropriate for their presentation. It was easy to view them – even advantageous for such unpretentious things; there was plenty to observe close-up.

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Olive Jones installation in process of being installed in her boxes. The tape is to clarify the scale of a pot yet to be placed. The two copper red vases are here as is the small copper lustre and the modelled figurative bookends.

To round off the display I added two portrait busts, by the Rayner Brothers of Whanganui. They played homage to these pioneers by modelling Elizabeth Lissaman and Briar Gardner. As they are possibly the first two, that’s fitting. Wish though that the Rayners had also done busts of Matheson and Jones but as these four were not necessarily the only pioneers we have, it would be difficult, I guess, to know when to stop…

The show opened a week or so prior to the Portage and comes to the end of its run on  January 28th  after being, apparently, quite popular viewing throughout the summer. Certainly I have received a number of emails and notes from people with lots of positive feedback and even been sent images of a couple of works asking if I can verify that these (imaged) pieces, in family keeping, have been made by some of these pioneer potters (they were indeed.) So maybe there will be some new additions to the auction rooms very soon.

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Springboarding from this project, there will be a Wikipedia Editathon on behalf of these pioneer potters of ours and followed ‘with a focus on female artists working with ceramics with the aim of improving the balance of artists represented online’. This will be hosted at Te Uru on…

SUNDAY 21st January (NEXT SUNDAY!) from 12 midday to 4pm

to be led by Courtney Johnston, Director of The Dowse Art Museum.

Courtney is experienced with Wikipedia projects having already overseen a project that created or enhanced more than 100 entries related to craft and craft arts to Wikipaedia already, so has considerable expertise in the area.

So, if you have a pet artist in our field you think deserves to be featured in Wikipedia, or would simply like to learn how this can be achieved for future reference, come along! Bring your laptop and any relevant research material. Or just your laptop as Te Uru will have research material on site anyway. Please go to Te Uru’s site for further information.  Absolutely worth doing! Great idea! See you there!

 

 

 

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