Canadian, American, and International ceramics in the Gardiner Museum's collection
One of the most influential ceramic artists of the 20th century, Voulkos, rejected traditional functional forms, instead making large-scale clay stacks and non-functional plates based on abstract forms. In 1953, at an important stage in his career, he taught summer sessions at Black Mountain College in North Carolina where he met Josef Albers, M.C. Richards, John Cage, Merce Cunningham and other leaders of the American avant-garde.
After World War II, a powerful new direction for ceramics led to a revision of thinking about the possibilities inherent in clay, pushing it in new directions. Peter Voulkos was at the vanguard of this movement. Influenced by abstract expressionism in painting and sculpture, as well as new developments in music (John Cage), he set about ripping up forms and slashing plates.
According to Inuit legend, Sedna is the goddess of the sea. Living at the bottom of the ocean, she controls all marine life and must be appeased by rituals and visits by Shamans to ensure that the sea creatures will continue to give up their lives for Inuit survival. This sculpture shows Sedna riding a bear with a long dog-like tail. Aksadjuak may be combining multiple stories into a single image, or simply allowing his imagination to dictate the subject matter.
As a functional potter, McKinley raised the standards of Canadian ceramics and influenced a younger generation of potters, including Bruce Cochrane and Harlan House. The technical mastery of her work is enhanced by the distinctive results of wood-firing, which can produce attractive surface variations.
Boyle uses commercial moulds and traditional porcelain lace techniques to create sculptures that are simultaneously delicate and disturbing. Porcelain lace is made by soaking lace fabric in a liquid porcelain slip and attaching it to a porcelain support. When the piece is fired, the fabric burns away and leaves behind an extremely fragile porcelain image of the lace pattern.
Why ceramics? I have come to recognize that clay, an organic material with a long history of human use, readily refers to both nature and culture, to historical as well as geological time. The physical face of soft/hard, inside/outside, and surface/form offer diverse opportunity for considering new relationships among the seemingly disparate. Connections emerge, linking human activity and natural processes, deliberation and chance, what is seen with what is sensed.
To create this sculpture, Larocque first made a basic clay framework. He then built up the image using smaller pieces of clay that he applied in layers and fixed with multiple firings.
This process gives the sculpture an organic vitality and a temporal dimension that suggests the forces of both growth and decay. It is as if the head were an archaeological artifact from some mysterious civilization. We understand that it has meaning, but the precise nature of that meaning is unclear.
A pre-dynastic Egyptian pot, roughly egg-shaped, the size of my hand; made thousands of years ago, possibly by a slave, it has survived in more than one sense. A humble, passive, somehow absurd object… yet potent, mysterious, sensuous. It conveys no comment, no self-expression, but seems to contain and reflects its maker and the human world it inhabits, to contribute its minute quantum of energy… and homage. An object of complete economy made by MAN; Giacometti man; Buckminster Fuller man. A constant. This is the only pot which has really fascinated me. It was not the cause for my making pots, but it gave me a glimpse of what man is.
Lucie Rie, an influential figure in contemporary ceramics, fled to England from Vienna in 1938 to escape Nazi persecution and worked there with another émigré artist, Hans Coper. In contrast to the prevailing British interest in Japanese and mediaeval ceramics, they transformed post-war ceramics with their adherence to a new European aesthetic based on the simplicity and elegance of the Modernist movement.
A graduate of the Royal College of Art in 1982, Odundo learned to throw, burnish and polish at Abuja Pottery in Nigeria. This vessel is hand-coiled rather than thrown and made out of red earthenware, but has been burnished and coated in terra-sigillata (fine suspension slip) that turns black in oxygen reduced firing. It is part of her anthropomorphic series and is strongly suggestive of the female body and early African shapes.