Ferocious and fantastic experiences in ceramics

Laurent Craste, “Adolf Loos’ wet dream IV” (2013), porcelain, glaze, poker, 11.5 x 16.5 x 22 inches (all photos Sarah Rose Sharp/Hyperallergic, unless otherwise noted)

TORONTO — When ceramists place their hands in clay, they echo an expressive gesture that has accompanied humanity for some 20,000 years. With all of this in mind, you might think that there is no new ground for contemporary ceramicists – but, as Earth Oracles proves, nothing could be further from the truth. The group exhibition at Mayten presents 15 artists, each of whom has oriented their ceramic practice in a unique and innovative direction.

“Coming from Iran, we have had clay and ceramics for thousands of years, not only for functional purposes, but also for artistic purposes,” said Mayten co-founder Farnoosh Talaee, who has co-curated the exhibition with participating artist Lindsay Montgomery. “We wanted to show how far you can go with the materials, and they’re all out-of-the-box artists.”

In keeping with the gallery’s overall values ​​of education and inclusion, the group is highly diverse in terms of age, gender, race, sexuality and career trajectory. The show is quietly mostly female and features rising stars like Roxanne Jackson, mid-career powerhouses like Penn State University associate professor Shannon Goff, and early-career artists like Sami Tsang, who comes from complete his MFA at Alfred University in New York State. . With such a varied group of radical ceramists, the exhibition risks barely mastered chaos, but Earth Oracles is rather a garden of earthly delights, with sumptuous enamels, fierce and fantastical forms, and a mastery of the medium proudly displayed.

Shannon Goff, “Soubrette” (2019), glazed earthenware paper clay, white gold luster, 19 x 13 x 11 inches

Dirk Staschke, who explores the genre of Dutch still life painting through wildly fused ceramic works that combine porcelain, earthenware and pottery fragments found in deceptively coherent “paintings”, stands out in terms of virtuosity. Dirk Staschke, often surrounded by elaborate ceramic frames. The results are so flawless that it might take an experienced potter to understand just how difficult the effect is to achieve. The same can be said of a series of works by Laurent Craste, which feature traditional French porcelain vessels withstanding the various abuses of metal tools. Different clays burn at different temperatures and experience different levels of shrinkage; the ability to master enough elements to combine them into balanced finished works is a great achievement. Likewise, one might be distracted by the ornate surface finishes on Marissa Alexander’s tall ships, and miss the payoff she achieves by risking an incredibly thick coil-and-slab construction technique.

The exhibit also includes a range of satisfying finishes, from a series of objects by Sasha Koozel Reibstein that resemble moon rocks and feature velvety horns and oozing metallic teardrops emerging from a stone-like lace matrix. pumice, to the finely painted surfaces of Lindsay Montgomery’s vessels. , which recast classic tales with all-female protagonists and challenge notions of female youth as beauty. Montgomery’s understanding of historic decorative traditions is reflected in its skillfully limited form and palette. These aspects have an ambiguous and sometimes anachronistic relationship with its subject: for example, the character Stripe from Gremlins II stands in the center of a clearing of cavorting bathers. Shannon Goff so skillfully combines glazes with the same ceramic base seems to vary within the same work.

Lindsay Montgomery, “Hag Rebellion”, detail (2022), glazed earthenware 21.5 x 26.6 x 2.5 inches

Finally, there are some outrageous experiments with the subject. Jackson’s split heads in shimmering, metallic pastel enamels distort animal shapes into something demonic, fantastical, and yonic. Linda Sormin’s works change form and meaning from every angle, including a site-specific installation that places two of her ceramic works in conversation with a canvas spread out on the floor and covered in found objects, paint and scattered ceramic and glass shards. What appears to be visual and formal chaos suddenly reveals a tiger, smiling face, or torso, creating moments of recognition that are both compelling and disturbing. While Tsang’s work is more or less instantly recognizable as figurative, his forms demand the same long gaze. The artist’s voracious appetite for integrating mixed media, applying multi-layered glazes and creating intense textures is brought to bear on themes of intercultural and intergenerational disconnect. Born in Canada to a conservative Hong Kong family, she grew up in Hong Kong and Canada and struggled with issues of cultural alienation and displacement.

These are just nods to a spectacle that weighs heavily on the present moment of ceramics. Earth Oracles demonstrates that just because something has been around forever doesn’t mean there’s no room for innovation.

Sasha Koozel, “Twilight Grind” (2021), left, and “Dark Disco” (2021), right, ceramic, 22-carat gold, flock
Sami Tsang, “Is this Growth or Stubbornness” (2022), white stoneware, glaze, engobe, glass, rice paper, ink, nail art, epoxy clay, 14 x 9 x 5 inches
Roxanne Jackson, “Indigo Kush” (2016), ceramic, glaze, luster 13 x 20 x 12 inches
Dirk Staschke, “Accumulation” (2021), ceramic, 28 x 24 x 4.5 inches (image courtesy of Mayten’s)
Charles Snowden, “Apotropaic Threshold” (2021), ceramic, pole IV, Paracord, 13 x 5 x 5 inches

Earth Oracles continues at Mayten’s (165 Niagara St, Toronto, Ontario, Canada) until June 25. The exhibit was curated by Farnoosh Talaee and Lindsay Montgomery.

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