Delicate delights

2012-10-13 05:52

Of the three-dimensional creative occupations, ceramic arts tends to best occupy that shifty space between form and function.

In the grand creative universe where things are created and celebrated for satisfying varied demands of acceptable sightlines.

The art of the potter has always had an added trial to meet usability standards.

It’s a fine line, drawn at a collector’s discretion, between deploying a vase as an ideal object of decoration or a perfect pitcher of water.

The work that make up this year’s Corobrik National Ceramics Exhibition adequately articulate this pursuit of balance between aesthetics and functionality.

The show includes more than 650 works and is currently installed at the Pretoria Art Museum.

Put together under the auspices of Ceramics Southern Africa and curated by Hannelie du Plessis, the exhibition presents the work of selected ceramic artists from across the country, some of whom received awards for their outstanding artistry.

The awards for ceramics expression and functional ceramics went to the Western Cape’s Katherine Glenday and David Walters, respectively.

This year’s invited international judge, French potter Daphne Corregan, chose the work of the Eastern Cape’s Delphine Niez for the prestigious Corobrick award for best overall piece.

Glenday’s work best captures the balance between aesthetic form and functional use.

It’s titled Another Way of Saying It and comprises a set of tea cups and saucers.

Using porcelain, she manages to shape her containers into translucent and transparent skin-like vessels.

The tea cups carry the adventurous streak of her more conceptual, shell-like work.

The work also carries a delicate finish with expressive experimental glazing.

With 35 years of experience under his belt, master potter Walters submitted a large, lustrous piece titled River Landscape Bowl.

The wheel-thrown ware continues what has become a 20-year focus on hard white porcelain clay.

The open-brimed piece displays a graceful symmetry that tells of the thrower’s sturdy wrist.

The inside wall of the bowl has been smoothed out so that the rims are only on the outside.

The Franschhoek-based artist chose to decorate the bowl’s smooth interior with carved, abstract patterns at the mouth.

The thick body of his bowls echoes the robustness of stoneware, only with a more gracious delivery.

Niez’s work, simply titled Fossil, breaks free from ceramics’ capacity for domestication, except perhaps as an outlandish decorative ornament.

Her broken eggshell and wasp hive-like piece resists the easy pursuit of prettiness.

Its impressions are both fragile and crisp.

The artwork seems to come alive under the brilliant glare of the gallery lights as it curves, curls and opens up like breakouts of foliage.

This year marks the exhibition’s 40th anniversary and, besides showcasing some of the country’s best ceramic work, it will feature panel debates with notable potters and art-market experts.

Speakers this year include Michael Bernardi, the art auctioneer and award-winning ceramicist; and John Shirley, also a ceramicist, who will give a walkabout at the museum on Saturday, October 20.

» The Corobrik National Ceramics Exhibition runs until October 21 at the Pretoria Art Museum

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