Ceramics NZ - Exhibition Reviews  

Brain Gartside

Writing this column has been very rewarding, for it not only gets me out and about, it also has forced me to take a closer look at the ceramic work that is on offer at the various Art spaces and Galleries around town. 
Recently I visited Ora Gallery, which is located in Allan Street, and came upon the ceramic work of the potter Brain Gartside. 
I have known of Brain’s work for some time. He is a much respected potter and has taught ceramics at a number of noted institutions. However this was the first time I really took a close look at his work, and it really impressed me.

On display were a number of brightly coloured bowls, each decorated with a combination of patterns created with a mixture of pure colours and designs on a dark background.

You can look at the bowls as purely decorative objects, as many will do. However, what I saw, was the high level of skill involved in the making of each of the bowls, each is beautifully made and well balanced. Every bowl has a different combinations of glaze flows and colour. Designs are similar but each bowl is unique as colours flows in a different ways on each bowl, so cannot be reproduced exactly.

Brain’s works appears fresh and spontaneous. Moreover, I feel that his work should be seen by all up and coming potters, and anybody who appreciates good craftsmanship.

Maurice Bennett
Facebook: Tectonic Clay
August 2015

Corporate Member Galleries
AVID Gallery - Wellington NZ

Ceramics NZ Exhibitions

Click any of the images below to see the archived version of the listed exhibition.

Reikorangi Pottery

Set in the hills behind Waikane is a real treasure of a place, one that is well worth a visit. The Reikorangi Potteries Park and Café, was established by potters Wilf and Janet Wright who have for more than half a century, have lived and worked in the Reikorangi valley, while quietly contributing to the art world and bring up a family.

In an old homestead they have set up a café, that serves the best Devonshire Teas (even if I had coffee) that you can have, as well as other delicious treats.

The café has an old time homely feeling, which so many modern places have lost. It is also very much a Museum, with old nineteen sixties magazines, interesting picture, and photos, and household products that many of us grew up with. All speaking of simpler way of life, and a bygone time.
On display and for sale is the pottery work of Wilf and Janet. Artistically their style is best describe as rustic, robust, and practical. There are cups, jugs, and dishes with strong brown glazes or oxides surfaces. That would fit well into any kitchen.

"Pottery can give people pleasure on a daily basis Wilf and Janet are known for being hospitable and welcoming, working closely with their neighbours and community, even caring for stray animals on their farm park. We have been very fortunate to live the life of our dreams . . . it's a way of life."

Maurice Bennett
Facebook: Tectonic Clay
August 2015

Doreen Blumhardt

We are all going to die, this is an undeniable fact. When you do pass on, will there be anything to remember you by, or will pass away without a trace.

A Wellingtonian who has left a legacy, is the noted potter and, educator Dame Doreen Blumhardt. In 2003, Doreen founded the Blumhardt Foundation with the aim to foster, support, collect, and display the best examples of decorative arts and design in New Zealand.

The Dowse Art Museum is the custodian of Doreen’s personal ceramic collection, and has named a gallery in her honour.  Every year, the Foundation along with The Dowse Art Museum, and Creative New Zealand offer a Cultural Internship, in the areas of decorative arts and design.

As a potter, Doreen was inspired by meetingin Japan, the world renowned potters, Hamada Shoji and Kawai Takeichi. Their artistic influence can be seen in much of her pottery, most notably, in the large press-moulded vases, with their poured glaze decoration.

One of Doreen’s more novel approaches, was to get impressions in clay from the rock formations along the south coast of Island Bay.  This approach and method has been influential to my own ceramic work, I have created large vases and bowls with impressions that I have taken in clay.

Due to Doreen’s commitment to her practice and to education, ceramics is much the richer and there is her legacy, which she she has left to all New Zealanders.

You are able to view the Doreen Blumhardt collection by arranging an appointment with the curator at the Dowse Art Museum. Furthermore her work is regular featured in the ceramic auctions held at Dumbar Sloane Ltd.

Maurice Bennett
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August 2015

Wi Taepa – Playing with Colour

As part of Matariki, The Maori New Year celebrations, Pataka Art and Museum, in Porirua, is holding an exhibition of the latest work by the respected and renown Maori ceramic artist Wi Taepa.

Taepa is well known, for being a teacher of the art of wood carving and ceramic work, at a number of institutions, one of which was Whitireia Polytecnic.

The current exhibition unveils his latest approach and direction with the introduction of colour, which has been achieved by the use of oxides and glaze.

This is great to see, as for far too long Maori ceramic work has relied on low firing techniques, such as bisque and pit firing to archive mono coloured work that reflected the past and not the present.

On show are a number of small containers, which have been created through hand coiling and pinching the clay into shape. Large heavy platters with splashes of colour, and tall slab constructed forms.

As a descendant from a line of master carvers many of the works incorporate Kowhaiwhai, the scroll designs that are seen on the rafters of Maori Meeting Houses.

The colours; reds blue and greens hold a special significance to Taepa, as they are the colours that he associates with his time he spent in the New Zealand Army. Thus incorporating into the work the art of storytelling and mana.

The use of a high gloss glaze on some of the works was for me a bit off putting, and some of the colour was a little flat and rough and ready, but as Taepa pointed out to me, his concern was not to achieve technical perfection. The hope is that this show would be inspirational, and create a new path which will be taken by young Maori, who are picking up the craft of working with clay.

On until 12th. July

Sue Scobie

I am always on the outlook for new an interesting ceramic work. So I was pleased to see five new vases by Picton base potter Sue Scobie, which are on display at Avid gallery, Victoria Street.

Sue has developed a distinctive style, creating delicate vases with bands of colour by pinching and coiling different clays in layers together.  The coloured bands allude to landscapes or the layers of strata that make up the earth. The rim layer is always made from a silky, translucent porcelain which contrasts beautifully with lower rough and gritty stoneware and makes one think of the sky.

The work at Avid, while similar too much of her earlier production were made while Sue was living in Australia.  She had at her disposal a whole new range of clays, particularly a strong orange clay. By using this, the new work is unique and shows how Sue was strongly influence by spirit of the drier harsher landscape.

The well define shape of the vases with their thin smooth walls and the bands of clay create a very decorative look. The vase that I personally own, is well liked by all who see it and it gets lots of comments, as people see different things in the swirling lines.
The reason for my purchase was that I loved the tactile nature of unglazed surfaces and the subtlety of finishes which are be achieved without the use of any glaze.

If you haven’t seen Sue Scobie’s work, or you wish to see how her style is developing, then get along to Avid soon, as the vases will not be there for long.

Maurice Bennett
June 2015

The Samuel Marsden Crosses

Review by Maurice Bennett

As a potter, it is a surprise to me that there are few public works, statures, murals, or even plaques created from ceramic. Once fired, clay last for a very long time. This can be seen in the pots and vases that are constantly being dug up from archaeological sites around the world. Indeed sometimes these items ae all that remain of forgotten cultures.

While visiting Samuel Marsden Collegiate School in Karori, I came across an outstanding ceramic work.  A stylized cross by the Wellington potter Muriel Moody. It is displayed prominently on the exterior of the School’s Barber Memorial Chapel. This large and impressive work is composed of big interlocking titles, some of which have circular inserts of coloured glass. True to Moody’s style, the lack of heavy glazing, makes the geometric relief stand out, producing a strong and solid form.

Upon inquires, I was directed inside the chapel to view a further cross. For displayed above the altar, is a glorious ceramic cross made by Roy Cowan with design input by Beverly Bennett.

It is composed of a number of small tiles imprinted with crosses, circles, and stars, patches of blues and green glazed heighten the design and white background.

While one might think of the crosses as dated, and a hangover from the nineteen eighties. I ask, would one look at an altar cross in St Peter’s Rome, and say it was dated. They are historical makers both in their design and their significance, and should be held up as such.

Maurice Bennett
June 2015

"LUICE RIE: A new Zealand Connection" - The Dowse Art Museum, Lower Hutt, Wellington.

Review by Maurice Bennett

Lucie Rie: A New Zealand Connection is a not-to-be-missed exhibition for lovers of ceramics, modernism, design, and beautiful objects.

In 1938 Lucie Rie fled Austria, emigrating to London, where she set up a pottery studio. She was influential in introducing European shapes and design to British ceramics, which is in contrast to the heavy brown ware of the Anglo/ Japanese style pottery, which dominated the English speaking world at the time.

In New Zealand several progressive retail outlets imported her work, while a further link was gained through the potter John Parker, who trained under Lucie at The Royal College of Art. Items of his work are also on display in which Lucie’s presence can clearly be seen.

One the works I was particularly taken by, is a small but elegant bowl, it has beautifully simple bright Uranium yellow glaze with a bronze oxide edge that runs as delicate dribbles down the side.

Not to be missed are a collection of Lucie’s trade mark, thin neck bottles with their flared rims. So very modern for their time, they would not seem out of place today.

Alongside are wonderful bowls by John Parker, one of which has a lava glaze, while another has wonderful bronze finish, so often used by Lucie.

Importantly, this is an outstanding exhibition, by one of Britain’s most acclaimed potters, accompanied by equally outstanding works of John Parker one of New Zealand’s leading ceramic artist.

The Exhibition runs until July 26.


Regional NZP Regional Show including 28 potters - Aratoi, Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, in Masterton

Review by Maurice Bennett

 One thing I have learnt is that the world will not come to you, have to go to the world.  Exhibitions are so important because they showcase  one’s work, they provide an opportunity to get feedback, and they show you  what appeals to the public  by what sells.

One exhibition where you get this opportunity is the annual Lower North Island Region Potters “Elements” exhibition  at Aratoi, Wairarapa Museum of Art and History, in Masterton until the 21st of June.

Here you will see works by 28 of the region’s potters, each showing a number of pieces. There was a lot to see, with the various potters  showing different approaches to the use of clay, firing techniques, and  glazing methods.
When I went I wrote down a few notes as I walked around the galley. My comments relate to work that impressed me, not to the prize winners or what others may consider to be better work.  A highlight for me was  the work of Rosemary O’Hara. Her work has a strong Pacific / New Zealand flavour. This was due to the colour of the clay and impressions created with the use of feathers and leaves. They were Raku fired, I have some knowledge of the process, so I know how difficult it is to achieve a work that does not fail in the firing process. Her work is both an achievement and a statement.

Lisa Donaldson displayed two simple plates, both showing a mastery of the glazing process. Lisa created simple seascapes using subdued blues and greys which give a pleasing effect that I consider to be outstanding. I am a novice when it comes to glazing. There is one colour that I wish to tackle.  I greatly admire and I am very envious of anybody who successfully gets great results. This is the celadon glaze, first achieve by the Chinese 2000 years ago.   Jennifer Turnbull’s blue celadon spiral bowls have my adoration.

Another potter well worth a mention is Jill Bagnall, who makes really great well-constructed work. I  admired a salad bowl with a square base and an interior dark glaze. The square base set this bowl apart.
A disappointment for myself, and I will possible will be taken to task for my comment, is that there were no works that showed innovation, there was no pushing the boundaries, or anybody using clay  in a new and innovative way. The exhibition felt a bit safe and little subdued.

I was really looking forward to the opening discussion of “Pottery in the digital in the age”. . I had hoped for some commentary on Web pages, Facebook, and even Twitter, or a mention of 3D and multi-layered printers. However the discussion only covered what could be described as a return to craft-ware. Paul Melser started the discussion by pointing out how people are turning away from mass produce goods. This can be seen in the rise of craft beer, natural made foods and farmers’ markets. But this was  all that was discussed, with potter after potter harking on the theme. To me it seems that potters will talk, till the cows come home, of raising an interest in craftsmanship, of their passion for the craft and of the innate aspect of being a Maker. More importantly us potters need to talk of how we can instil this understanding and the value of the return to craftemanship into the buying public and the next generation in the digital age!

Elements Exhibition on until June 21st.

Peter Rumble - "Oloids for the Masse" - Thistle Hall in upper Cuba Street, Wellington

Review by Maurice Bennett

Peter Rumble is well-known in Wellington, having run one of the better wine-shops for a number of years. Since selling, he has devoted his energy and passion to the creation of works of art. Over the last two years this has mean a full on, head first, plunge into ceramics.

Peter is having a solo exhibition at Thistle Hall in upper Cuba Street. The main subject for this exhibition is the Oloid, a three-dimensional curved geometric object. Created by placing two convex surfaces together. Amazingly, the form was not discovered until 1929 by Paul Schatz, a German born sculptor and inventor. Peter has slip-cast this form and produced great number of these forms in a variety of sizes. He has decorated by glazing, painting, and pit-firing.  I am especially fond of the colours and patterns caused by this raw firing technique.

The secondary subject in this exhibition is based on natural conical stones that have been smoothed and shapes by the actions of wind and sand.  Known as “Ventiacts” these stones are founded on the Waiinu beach, just north of Whanganui. They are protected objects and may not be removed from the beach dunes. The works created from this form may be hung on the wall as decoration, while some have been made into small vases.

Peter’s sense of humour as can be seen in the other works that are in the exhibition, including comic looking money-box houses, which are both childlike and practical, and Viking ships and Chinese dragon boats

I am pleased that Peter will be manning the exhibition throughout. You will be able to get his take and reasoning behind each work. There are many hidden tales and lots humour. So come along and have a chat and see some very interesting work
One week only: 18 - 24 May 2015
10.00am - 6.00pm, Monday - Sunday
10.00am - 9.00pm, Friday (late night)

Bronwynne Cornish (born 1945) - New Zealand ceramicist and sculptor

Review by Maurice Bennett

"Chimney Cats" by Bronwynne Cornish
Avid Gallery

Over the weekend my wife Carolyn and I visited the Dowse Museum to see ‘Mudlark’ - a major exhibition of of Bronwynne Cornish’s work - one of New Zealand’s most celebrated ceramic artists.

For those of you who have not yet discovered her work, Bronwynne has been working with clay since the 1960’s. She was first turned onto working with clay after running into Barry Brickell, then learned her craft from Helen Mason here in Wellington before moving around various parts of the North Island. Bronwynne finally set up her own studio in Mt Eden, Auckland, in the mid 1970’s. Since then she has been an active member of the Auckland Society of Potters and has taught at a number of institutions.

As a full time potter Bronwynne has exhibited in a number of major galleries both in New Zealand and overseas. Her style is quite unique and personal reflecting a strong feminine theme, her interest in ritual and the power of magic.

‘Mudlark’ (what a great name!), celebrates a significant stage of Bronwynne’s artistic career showing an impressive breadth of work. A lovely touch to the exhibition was displayed at the entry where her terracotta cat sat for you to pat. To me this started the exhibition with a significant human touch – inviting everyone, young and old to connect personally with the exhibition display, quite a change from the hands-off shows where work is place behind cabinetry, barriers or walls of glass.

Making up most of her exhibition are her figures. Hybrid humanal forms or animal and people beings inspired by Egyptian deities, sphinx, birds, and mythological animals. These motifs have formed a cornerstone of Cornish’s practice over the past twenty years, and constantly recur in her work. They seem deeply invested with spiritualism, having been used by ancient Egyptians as protection against evil. I feel Bronwynne’s modern examples evoke the same response acting also as guardians, protecting their owners or surroundings.
Carolyn asked “where is the glaze” however, for the work to harken to those ancient excavated antiquities which were not glazed, these pieces too are unadorned. In their simplicity without glaze the figures talk of the material of their creation, the earth and fire, with a simple, silent beauty.

"Standing Figures" by Bronwynne Cornish
The Dowse Gallery

A personal favourite of mine, ‘Temple of Hera’ (1996) was one of the many temples on display. What drew me to this piece was the raw clay surface. Pit fired it is quite small in size, and could easily be placed in a home as a personal altar.
Filling a much larger space in the exhibition is one of Bronwynne’s installations works, ‘Home is where the Heart is’. Works of this size first appeared in the 1980s and at the time were considered a radical departure from the accepted traditions of pottery-making in New Zealand. For me it was great to be reacquainted with the work. I first saw it at the Denis Cohen gallery in the early Eighties. I didn’t understand it then, and I still have questions about it now, but no doubt the work speaks to the viewer on many levels.
I see images of domestic life (slip-cast clothes pegs), ritual and magic (the temple and the row of cats) plus the feminine statement that prevails but this is where I finish. I know I should both see and experience more.
If you are unable get out to The Dowse you can go to AVID Gallery, and see a number of Browynne’s Chimney Cats, Temples and Jugs. The cats were first made in 1982 and are a major component of the ‘Home is Where the Heart Is’ installation. Each has been cast in red or white earthenware clay, with slips applied to some of the surfaces.  Each cat slightly differs from its neighbour, with small marks and stain runs. This make each unique and further more shows the makers hand.

Applied to each cat are Egyptian shaped eyes, these eyes hold a particular fascination almost haunting as they stare out at you. No wonder, as they represent the old chimney cats placed as Guardians to ward off evil. They also strongly refer to the Egyptian Goddess ‘Bastet’ the protector. Seeing them up close and being able to walk around them was truly moving.

There are also two of Bronwynne’s ceramic temples that I enjoyed even more than the cats. They show a far higher skill level and display greater variation of workmanship. Each has an interval surface treatment and design with interesting glaze or stained surfaces.  Between them they have a strong sense of the material and craftsmanship - which I really admire.
As you can tell I am impressed with Bronwynne Cornish’s work. It’s great that another New Zealand potter is getting such recognition. Furthermore, I look forward to seeing further developments in her very personal style in the future.

The Dowse Art Museum - “Mudlark” is on until, 2nd August

AVID Gallery - “Chimney Cats” is on until, 12TH. May

Maurice Bennett

Works by Janet Green and Sara Scott – ‘Central’

Visual Culture Art Gallery

Review by Maurice Bennett May 2015

"Central" Janet Green & Sara Scott
Visual Culture

Of the many art galleries in Wellington there is one that that I want to talk up - Visual Culture located at 108 Oriental Parade.  On my last two visits I have seen some great ceramic work and I was not disappointed when I visited the gallery recently.

Janet Green

On display in May is an exhibition by two well-known ceramic artists Janet Green and Sara Scott.  The joint exhibition titled ‘Central’ refers to both artists being ex pupils of the same learning institution where they first met, The Central School of Art in London.  The works reflect the different approaches of these two artists their influences and styles, and show specific techniques of their making. What I found particularly exciting was these works have all been made in the last few years.

Janet Green uses coiling, pinching and other hand building techniques achieving sharply focused pieces with a high level of skill. Her forms reflect a fusion of the many civilisations, and cultures that she has experienced or come into contact with. In the shape of her containers I see forms of Grecian jugs and vases while their lids contain reference to Buddhist stupas.  There are also a number of small jugs which are inspired by a Mexican toby-like frog jug that Janet owns - quaint and quirky at the same time.

Sara Scott

I always admire a potter who makes teapots. They require a high level of skill and understanding of form and balance and I have to admit that my own feeble attempts have been rather crude and rough. Janet’s teapots by contrast are fantastic. Though interesting in their shape, being of a good size and are functional, I would however rather have them out on display.

 A common concern with mainly ceramic exhibitions is what to do with the bare walls, few ceramic items lend themselves to being displayed on a vertical surface and most end up on a table or are established on a plinth. Janet has overcome this by complementing her ceramic work with seven mono-prints in similar tone to her pieces. Each of these hand coloured prints, show items from Janet’s work as a conservator at The British Museum. Greek artefacts, votive offerings and letters from ancient alphabets. These are shown across the surface of each print recalling scientific engravings of past ages.

The other ceramic artist exhibiting, Sara Scott, has a pottery studio at Essons Valley on the edge of Picton. Her works in ‘Central’ show a number of household items - plates, beakers and vessels on display. Sara’s work emits a strong sense of a love for drawing as a form of decoration whether she’s using a flowing glaze, scraffitto, or the inlaying of lines.

Sara Scott

Of all the items on display I particularly liked a salad dish and servers. The low formed dish with matt slip glaze has been scraped away in areas to give a special effect. Something that inspires me to try this technique out for myself.

I also admired Sara’s approach to the making of what could easily be described as a dinner plates, however while you probably you would not eat off these they would make a wonderful display on the wall or side cabinet. The plates are made from a round shape that has been cut at angles to create an odd but welcome alternate form. On the cream glazed surface a dark black circle has been painted, but what is a master stroke, a small dot of colour has been then added.

On the whole Sara’s work looks very domestic and although much of it could be used functionally, this is not its primary purpose. They are works of art.

The exhibition is on until 20th. May

Maurice Bennett

Ceramics Association of New Zealand

Registered as an incorporated society in 1965 by an enthusiastic group of potters in Wellington, New Zealand, Ceramics NZ has grown to become a significant international voice in New Zealand ceramics. The affiliation of about three dozen independent pottery clubs throughout New Zealand together with a number of corporate businesses greatly increases its effective membership. We are a national, not-for-profit organisation representing the interests of practising potters and ceramicists, students of ceramics and all those interested in New Zealand ceramics. We actively support and promote quality, and we encourage and support specialist ceramics education nationally.
Click here to Join Ceramics NZ.

Ceramics NZ,
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