In the case of the plastic vessels he casts, the transformation to a now solid object emphasizes the way in which it takes up space. In a time when plastic bags and bottles, expendable objects and large oceanic plastic piles are under deeper scrutiny, Harder’s meticulous recording of his experience with these objects brings attention to how much plastic we each encounter in our everyday lives and reveals how dependent we have become on the material. Some plastic objects are made for durability and to conserve weight when filled with liquid, while others are discarded immediately after a brief period of use – most do not biodegrade. By bringing attention to every object he uses, Harder points to our individual complicity, the sheer quantity of plastics discarded and the amount of resources that have gone into the creation of these modern conveniences.
Referencing the cellular make-up of plastic material itself and the transformation to cast concrete, Harder’s sculptural constellations take the form of a polyhedron, the Classical Greek word meaning “many bases” which describes a mass or surface in three dimensions with flat polygonal faces, straight edges and sharp corners. By connecting these seemingly disparate objects, Harder makes the accumulation of these materials visible and exposes the connection between individual actions and the common good.
David Jacob Harder
Lighter (400-500 years), 2018
Image courtesy of the Artist
Through their books and workshops, the potter Bernard Leach, along with Shoji Hamada and Soetsu Yanagi, actively promoted studio pottery in England and Japan and became profoundly influential around the world in the 1950s and ‘60s. They saw studio pottery as a humanist activity that extended our cultural continuity into the Neolithic past, and they proposed a meeting of Eastern and Western culture through an “art of living” that acknowledged the values of the individual craftsperson, the importance of handmade objects and a connection to the land.
Bernard Leach’s philosophy permeates the art history of British Columbia. A revival of craft was seen regularly in exhibitions at the Vancouver Art Gallery from the 1950s to the ‘70s and was evident in the work of a generation of now well-known artists emerging from the Vancouver School of Art (now Emily Carr University of Art + Design) at that time. While studio pottery remained a prominent practice through the 1970s, it began to disappear from institutional discourse as distinctions between so-called high and low art re-emerged in “fine art” exhibitions. Leach’s influence on BC potters and the craft/art dialogue was brought to the forefront again in the seminal 2004 exhibition Thrown: Influences and Intentions of West Coast Potters, organized by the Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery.
While studio potters continue to produce and have influence, the commitment to a back-to-the-land ethos, so central fifty years ago, is arguably less possible and attractive now than it was then. The resurgence of ceramic practices today may be indicative of a rise in the importance of handmade things generally and, in the contemporary art world, a strong interest in materiality. The ten artists in Ionic Bonds refer to the legacies and histories of ceramics while pushing the limits of functionality towards a ceramic art that integrates altogether new forms, including video, interactive projects and installation. They span many generations and backgrounds. In some cases, the artists maintain a fluid integration of studio pottery along with a conceptual art practice, while others make work in many mediums, including ceramics, as part of their broader intellectual and material exploration.
Works include an installation of porcelain panels by Tom Burrows made during his time in Jingdezhen, China, along with polymer panels and an early video and sculpture work, Sand Pile (1973). There is also a large grouping of sculptural vessels by well-known ceramicist Wayne Ngan that give a sense of his prolific practice. Steven Brekelmans and Gailan Ngan have both made new work that combines large-scale ceramic vessels with found and constructed materials. Maggie Boyd has also developed a new body of work in which projected imagery fills blank spaces left on vessels, suggesting a fluidity of meaning on otherwise fixed objects. In his Borrowed Landscape series, Glenn Lewis embeds metaphor in material, oscillating between object and place by using source materials and photographs of sites in Medicine Hat, Alberta, and Jingdezhen, China, where he was an artist-in-residence. The exhibition also includes an installation of vessels and prints by Eunice Luk that came together in an exhibition at the Walter Phillips Gallery in Banff, as well as projects by Babak Golkar that offer visitors an opportunity to throw clay at the wall and scream into pots. Collaborative vessels by Eric Metcalfe and Paul Mathieu are presented in conversation with Metcalfe’s gouache paintings.
The atoms in ceramic materials are held together by chemical bonds. An ionic bond occurs between materials with different electronegativity—metal and non-metal. The metal atom transfers electrons to the non-metal atom, becoming positively charged, whereas the non-metal becomes negatively charged. The two ions, having opposite charges, attract each other with a strong electrostatic force. The artists in this exhibition are bonded by their distinctive approaches to ceramics. Through diverse ways of working with clay, the artists respond to the deep historical roots of ceramics, the medium’s connection to the land and its ability to transform through human contact.
clay, slips, glaze, rope
43.9 x 30.5 x 22.9 cm
Courtesy of the artist and Monte Clark Gallery
Photo: Goya Ngan
Josh Allan’s practice is influenced by the grand narratives and graphic drawing found in comics. Deb Fong’s research takes her into the history of still life painting where she works beyond the flat canvas and brings a contemporary feminist perspective to the genre. Kazia Poore uses photography to explore personal expression through the gestural movement of people’s hands. Elizabeth Sigalet uses sourced material and photographic manipulation to investigate the relationship between the natural landscape and human engineering projects within it.
For their collaborative project at the Kamloops Art Gallery, the artists are executing call and response works within The Cube for the two-week installation period prior to the opening reception. This methodology plays off of Surrealist drawing games like the exquisite corpse, where multiple artists collaborate, responding to the previous artists’ work to create a finished work that focuses on the process as much as the result. To begin this project, each artist claims a wall of the gallery, initiating a call, then invites the other artists to respond. The responses are without guidelines or limitations, with each artist knowing their work may be added to, blotted out or erased completely and replaced by new work. Upon further discussion… is an exercise in multi-authorship and collaboration in an attempt to go deeper into the Polite Conversation that initiated the artists’ collaborations during their BFA studies.
Deb Fong and Kazia Poore
Hand Holding Lemon, 2018
acrylic and photo on canvas
91.4 x 91.4 cm
Working together at Kingcome Inlet in the summer of 2018, a group of artists used film, video, social media, weaving, animation, drawing, language and song to address the urgent threats to the land and water. A manifestation of the relationships formed between the participants over this past year, this exhibition is based on sharing knowledges and respectful collaboration. Simultaneously research, material, media, testimony and ceremony, Hexsa’am: To Be Here Always challenges the Western concept that the power of art and culture are limited to the symbolic or metaphoric and that the practices of First Peoples are simply part of a past heritage. As Marianne Nicolson states, “We must not seek to erase the influence of globalizing Western culture, but master its forces selectively, as part of a wider Canadian and global community, for the health of the land and the cultures it supports. The embodied practice of ceremonial knowledge relates to artistic experience – not in the aesthetic sense, but in the performative: through gestures that consolidate and enhance knowledge for positive change.” Hexsa’am: To Be Here Always positions the gallery as an active location for this performance, creating generative exchange. Hexsa’am: To Be Here Always is a further iteration of the original exhibition at the UBC Morris and Helen Belkin Art Gallery from January 11 to April 7, 2019 as part of Mirrored In Stone, a project commissioned with Cineworks in partnership with the Dzawada’enuxw First Nation. The project was made possible with the generous support of the Canada Council for the Arts New Chapter fund, the British Columbia Arts Council Youth Engagement Program, the City of Vancouver and the Vancouver Foundation.
Working with local Secwépemc artist and curator Tania Willard, artists in the exhibition will attend the UBCO summer Indigenous art intensive, with visits to BUSH Gallery, a land-based gallery in Secwépemculecw. There will also be a focus on Syilx territory (Kelowna, BC) and collaboration with the Wild Salmon Caravan. This examination of intra-territoriality and art practice will compliment the exhibition’s concerns, connecting local issues and Indigenous lands through community networks and respectful relations.
From Hexsa'am: To Be Here Always, 2018
Photo: Marianne Nicolson
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