John Hurrell – 23 November, 2016
There is a lot to see here - it encourages intense lingering - and this is probably the best ceramics show you are likely to see in Auckland for a few years. It is not a sample of all that is around, for it tends to lean towards the organic, suggestive, mottled and earthy, studiously avoiding narrative and anything pure, cleanly delineated, industrial or Poppy. It has a focus.
14 contemporary ceramicists
HANDBUILT: made in clay
Curated by Denis O ‘Connor
16 October - 26 November 2016
With this assortment of likeminded contemporary artists who explore the sculptural (and painterly) tactilities of ceramics, Denis O’Connor presents not only his and their work, but for plinths, an elegant installation of long-legged vitrines, a circular drop-leaf table and bulky rotund sculptures teetering on steel rods. Even before you start to think about clay (its weight and malleability), there is the Two Rooms space with its polished concrete floor. Rarely has this downstairs gallery looked so good.
Looking through the seven vitrines, only about ten of the twenty-nine exhibits are overtly functional, ranging from Peter Hawkesby’s bulbous earthenware teapots to Isobel Thom’s angular boxlike stoneware tea sets. Hawkesby has also made some glazed, hollow, log-like drinking containers for Vikings with unquenchable thirsts. Most of the show is ‘expressive’, for many of O’Connor’s choices are wildly inventive with the organic forms fully conversant with both exuberant and subtly restrained colour.
Much of this densely textured fired sculpture is formally quite exhilarating, such are the hard tactile qualities of say, Janet Beckhouse’s flaming fluid arabesques, Nichola Shanley’s sinewy and undulating jagged peaks, and Richard Stratton’s multi-facetted, planar towers. Some items, such as the hefty and dark contributions by Tanja Nola and Graham Fletcher, have a brooding, brittle yet lumbering, earthbound intensity, quite the opposite of the delicate and buoyant wall reliefs of Alex Pittendrigh, where pale bird and leaf-like forms seem about to float skywards.
Particularly astonishing are the two extremely fragile and fine stacked sculptures by Virginia Leonard - precariously teetering on stalks - that make you wonder how their transportation is at all possible - and what is stopping them from falling over. Like with most of the work here, your eye lingers on the bubbly modulated colour, needle-sharp stalactites, and richly worked surfaces that are amorphous when compared with the more geometric, formally structured and architectural constructions of Denis O’Connor himself - on the other side of the room.
There is a lot to see here - it encourages intense lingering - and this is probably the best ceramics show you are likely to see in Auckland for a few years. It is not a sample of all that is around, for it tends to lean towards the organic, suggestive, mottled and earthy, studiously avoiding narrative (surprising for O’Connor) and anything pure, cleanly delineated, industrial or Poppy. It has a focus.