Thursday, October 19, 2006
Last week I went to the Gold Coast International Ceramic Awards. I had some work in the exhibition of finalists and this is a really good opportunity to see a slice of Australia's (only a couple of international entries) contemporary ceramics scene. The judge, Noel Frankham had created a beautiful exhibition in which you could clearly see his interest in porcelain. I also love porcelain and found the exhibition very inspiring. Some people have found this award to be too idiosyncratic because the prizes are awarded by only one judge not a panel. I quite like this, it is idiosyncratic but having one judge throws up really unusual choices at times and reflects personal preferences. In this world of panels and "unbiased" judgments I like the reflection of the personal in the Gold Coast Award, the judge is not forced to abandon their favorite in favour of the majority view. It makes a weird collection which, when we finally get to view the acquisitions from over the years may appear to be slightly uneven but I think the greatest collections in the world reflect the biases of the collectors rather than the majority view which can at times be a bit bland.
So... If I was judge this is what I would have chosen.
Julie Sheperd's wonderful work "City Dwellers"
(approx 50cm wide by 60cm high)
"There is no solitude in the world like that of the big city. Quote from Kathleen Norris.
Although we live in close proximity to others who share the same physical structure, no one can share exactly what another person experiences, consequently we are ultimately alone in the world."
The juxtaposition of the screen printed illustrations from 19th century medical encylopaedia with the expressionistic brushstrokes create a dynamic movement across the piece which is illuminated and displayed on the wall. The grid like pattern of the boxes reference apartments or the compartmentalization of modern life. When we look in, we don't see the mundane but the mystery beneath the surface of reproduction, families , living together and the human condition.
Avital Sheffer (who's work heads this post) would have also been one of my winners. The work in the exhibition was not this particular piece but it was similar. Avital's work was so self-contained yet the earthenware body, decorative surface and low firing lent it a warmth and tactile appeal that contrasted to much of the other work in the show. Avital's work reminds me simultaneously of the human body, with it's soft skin-like texture and pages of old books so worn from the flicking of fingers that they have taken on a soft, almost slightly furry feel and a sepia colour. Both these works seem to contain the mystery of being human in an object.