Ceramic awards a coup for city
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.
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Oliver Morse’s House of Dee.