Made in Clay–Curated by Denis O’Connor
In order to be an artist working with ceramics today, you have to make a disclaimer about not knowing what you are doing technically speaking. –Betty Woodman, American ceramicist
The presiding figures ghosting over this selection in Handbuilt would not fall into this category. Ken Price, Ron Nagle, or even Lucio Fontana wouldn’t be bothered outlining “technique” – you would just take their virtuosity as given – I don’t think you’d hear them discussing “craft” anytime either. After all, painting has craft, photography has craft, writing has craft. Well, just about everything has craft. Ceramics in New Zealand has many established forums, and a rich studio-pottery tradition, but increasingly clay is appearing in contemporary art contexts and this is not going away, for the simple reason it also has an honourable tradition across the last 150 years from Paul Gauguin, to Jeff Koons, and Thomas Schütte. We are now very familiar with visual artists decorating pots – Theo Schoon stamping a Len Castle platter, Max Gimblett abstracting a Martin Popplewell bowl, a John Reynolds drawing on a dinner plate for example. But, Handbuilt is more about thumbprints, fistfuls, the cranky, the broken, the wonky.
This selection is more about the “theatre-of-clay” with the costumery of pottery taken away, or in Richard Stratton’s case made to perform some other role on some other stage. Isobel Thom’s Tea Ceremony might just be able to fulfil the task of fetish design, but for Peter Hawkesby the teapot is the ‘rope’ in trope. A life model subject taken on a dizzying wheelie–ride miles away from the provenance and decorum of Earl Grey or the challenge of making a ‘proper’ spout that pours well without dripping. These are the Beckettian stand-ins for tableware.
–Denis O’Connor, October 2016