Ce­ramic awards a coup for city

Whanganui Midweek - - COMMUNITY LINK -

MIKE: It was for­tu­itous that I dropped into Rick Rudd’s Quartz Mu­seum of Stu­dio Ce­ram­ics last Wed­nes­day morn­ing as he was able to show me the Mid­week pho­to­graph of An­drea du Chate­nier and him­self, both hav­ing re­ceived Merit Awards at this year’s Portage Ce­ramic Awards in Auck­land. Since only three were awarded, it was quite a coup for Whanganui artists to win two of them. I had ac­tu­ally gone into the mu­seum to view the ex­hi­bi­tion of Emerg­ing Prac­ti­tion­ers in Clay Award, for which Rick had put up a prize of $10,000 — not to be sneezed at! Sixty-five en­tries had been re­ceived, with 37 se­lected for the fi­nal cut. All are now on display un­til March in Rick’s ex­cel­lent gallery. It proved to be a na­tion­wide at­trac­tion, en­trants com­ing from as far afield as Whangarei and Dunedin. High­light­ing the im­por­tance of this prize, the win­ner, Oliver Morse, from Wellington, was an­nounced, in late Septem­ber, by Jacinda Ardern. It is worth hav­ing a look at it on YouTube. House of Dee is an ex­plo­sive ob­ject by a ce­ram­i­cist who has been work­ing in that medium for only two years. It im­me­di­ately re­minded me of an An­cient Greek lekythos, the slen­der, white oil flasks, of­ten used as fu­ner­ary vases. They showed del­i­cate outlines of hu­man fig­ures, usu­ally painted in light pri­mary colours, many of which have faded over the years.

For this inau­gu­ral event, Rick told me that no pre­cise guide­lines had been laid down. In the fu­ture, how­ever, for what he hopes will be a tri­en­nial oc­cur­rence, it has been stip­u­lated that an en­trant must have been work­ing with clay for no more than five years, and has not been se­lected for ei­ther the Portage or the Wal­lace Art Awards. Sev­eral of this year’s 37 were also in the Portage, New Zealand’s pri­mary award for ce­ram­ics. The win­ning piece will re­main in Rick’s col­lec­tion and he has al­ready pur­chased two oth­ers for his foun­da­tion. One of these, en­ti­tled Heart Be­tween our Hands, by Keaton Hamil­ton, is the only un­fired work in the ex­hi­bi­tion. It is a small piece of clay, about 250 grams in weight, roughly the same size as a hu­man heart. The clay was moulded be­tween the artist’s hand on one side, her fa­ther’s on the other. Its ten­der­ness ap­pealed to Rick.

I have em­pha­sised how spe­cial it is for Whanganui to pos­sess such an as­set as this mu­seum. Look it up on YouTube, where it is given a five-star rat­ing.

JOAN: An­other ex­cel­lent talk was of­fered to mem­bers of the Univer­sity of the Third Age and other in­ter­ested peo­ple last Thurs­day in Whanganui. Dis­tin­guished Pro­fes­sor Dr Paul Spoon­ley, Pro-Vice-Chan­cel­lor — Col­lege of Hu­man­i­ties and So­cial Sci­ences at Massey Univer­sity is one of New Zealand‘s most re­spected aca­demics. He is known world­wide for his re­search ex­per­tise, the many books that he has writ­ten and he is of­ten asked for his ad­vice by the me­dia on all his many ar­eas of knowl­edge and con­clu­sions about the fu­ture of our coun­try. With a bril­liant mind, he is a cap­ti­vat­ing speaker and is in no way rar­i­fied or ob­scure in his man­ner of ad­dress He has an en­dear­ing sense of hu­mour.

Dr Spoon­ley is most ap­proach­able and his talk last week brought his fas­ci­nat­ing and thor­ough re­search to his pro­jec­tions as to the fu­ture of Whanganui in the next 20 years. Not a glow­ing pic­ture! He warned us that, fol­low­ing the trends he fore­saw, the re­gions would con­tinue to shrink in pop­u­la­tion and job growth whereas Auck­land would con­tinue to grow and pros­per. Tau­ranga and Hamil­ton would also in­crease in pros­per­ity but small towns and other ru­ral ar­eas would not. Stat­ing that the com­ing years would see a rise in the num­ber of over 65s in Whanganui there would be a drop in the 0 to 15 age group liv­ing here. This is a de­press­ing statis­tic. He men­tioned other cities that had at­tracted new cit­i­zens through at­trac­tive sport fa­cil­i­ties and other spe­cial at­trac­tions. I felt sure that all of his au­di­ence bris­tled slightly, feel­ing our city was do­ing much to make it­self known for its at­trac­tive points of dif­fer­ence.

How­ever, the Pro­fes­sor em­pha­sised that what the city needed was younger peo­ple liv­ing here, want­ing to stay and raise their fam­i­lies here…not a new aim but I loved his idea that all year 12 and 13 stu­dents here in Whanganui should be given these statis­tics and asked what their vi­sion was for the fu­ture and how it could in­clude them. I know we have a Youth Coun­cil but a wider in­clu­sion of our young peo­ple is needed.

He had al­ready sug­gested to the last Na­tional Govern­ment that im­mi­grants (new ar­rivals) to the coun­try should agree to spend their first five years in a ru­ral town. Such a fine idea but he had found the Na­tional Govern­ment un­sym­pa­thetic. The new Govern­ment is far more ready to do this and we should con­tinue to press for help there. At this point a very nice gentle­man who, with his wife, had come to live here from Amer­ica, said it was the prospect of the Velo­drome be­ing roofed that had brought him here and all that that would give him per­son­ally and the city it­self. He was dis­ap­pointed that this was still a dis­cus­sion. Paul sug­gested the Re­gional Growth Fund be ap­proached and that we would be stronger in such ad­vance­ments only with good lead­er­ship and strong coali­tions of in­ter­ested peo­ple.

He spoke of UCOL, and ob­vi­ously felt we could do more to bring in for­eign stu­dents, as they are a huge sig­nif­i­cant fi­nan­cial as­set to New Zealand. If job in­creases here are not matched by worker in­creases, then over­seas doc­tors, teach­ers, clean­ers etc. must be wel­comed in to swell our num­bers.

It was an ex­cit­ing talk and I so wished our Mayor, Coun­cil chief ex­ec­u­tive, coun­cil­lors, mem­bers of Whanganui and Part­ners, Mark Daw­son and so many other movers and shak­ers in the city could have been there to re­ply to his fu­ture vi­sion. What he clearly made ev­i­dent was that plan­ning for the fu­ture should be done in the past and with knowl­edge and passion. He showed us both of those.

MIKE: Heads Road isa typ­i­cal end of year ex­hi­bi­tion at the Rayner Broth­ers Gallery. Zany, in­ge­nious, hu­mor­ous, skil­ful — 42 artists have ap­plied their in­di­vid­ual tal­ents to ren­der a man­nequin head to their own sin­gu­lar pur­pose. In con­trast to pre­vi­ous oc­ca­sions, when the cho­sen item (skull, swan, etc.) has been ce­ramic, the con­trib­u­tors this time were pre­sented with a poly­styrene head. Lighter, ob­vi­ously, but per­haps more awk­ward to han­dle. In fact, one of my favourite artists over the course of this year, Ka­te­rina Smoldyreva, has pro­duced a some­what bat­tered end prod­uct, bits of poly­styrene gouged out and strewn all over the place! Her ver­bose de­scrip­tor could be taken to sug­gest that this was the re­sult of sheer frus­tra­tion. But with her abun­dance of tal­ent, who knows? It might just be zanier than the rest!

Some pieces ap­pealed to me due to the artist’s skill, oth­ers be­cause of their clever word play. Ex­am­ples: Elaine Mayer’s Head­case; Blind Date by Ver­ity Chase; Lau­ren Joan Lysaght’s Darth Vino; Heather Bask­iville Robin­son’s Fini­tude is the Grate­ful Dread. (This latte be­cause I had never heard the word ‘fini­tude’!) And, of course, Rick Rudd’s beau­ti­fully fash­ioned teapot, Head in the Clouds. As this is ce­ramic, rather than poly­styrene, I have a feel­ing that he may have elas­ti­cated the rules slightly! Which doesn’t mat­ter in the least, when such an end re­sult is ob­tained.

In the next room, Gallery 85, is Rachel Gar­land’s You Swing, I Sway, a num­ber of small fig­ures, sus­pended from the wall on wire, legs and arms swing­ing like ac­ro­bats. Most of them con­sist of a hu­man body sur­mounted by an an­i­mal head. Rachel said that her paint­ings have of­ten pur­sued this theme, so, for this ex­hi­bi­tion, she de­cided to pro­duce her “lit­tle crit­ters” in 3D. The medium? For the ma­jor­ity, a kind of “pa­per-clay”, ac­cord­ing to the artist, which she her­self has de­vel­oped. Oth­ers were re­con­structed dolls. On the fac­ing wall are slightly larger fig­ures, all fe­male, hang­ing straight down, no ac­ro­batic em­bel­lish­ment. The head and hair of each is in a deathly white, with fa­cial fea­tures added — a strangely un­set­tling ef­fect.

Two ex­hi­bi­tions for the price of one! That can’t be bad! Both run un­til De­cem­ber 22.

■ Sug­ges­tions and com­ments to [email protected]

Oliver Morse’s House of Dee.

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