Fire & Earth, Body & Bone

Opening Speech – Fire & Earth, Body & Bone ceramics exhibition
Suter Gallery, Nelson
9 December 2017

Congratulations to all the practitioners who have a work in this Show.

And thank you to both Julie and Sara for inviting me to be part of the selection panel: for after 40 years of practice, it is a strange feeling not to be exhibiting- not to have a work here, and not to be part of the exhibition. So when Sara and Julie asked me to help put these works together I was thrilled for as you know my major Installations have been held here and because I have retired it does not mean my passion for ceramics has ceased.

It is not an easy job to run a red pencil through the work of practitioners when you consider how much time and energy goes into submitting a work:
And the disappointment that comes when the work is rejected.
I know, because I have had my share of rejection slips, and I know that sinking feeling, but it is an opportunity to pause and reflect on the work, of how to re-appraise it, or even be brave enough to ask why, in order to gain more insight.

I also want to say how fortunate we are with the extra gallery space that enables a show of this nature to take place. We are also fortunate in having Sara, because her passion for ceramics has had her thinking long and hard about how she wanted to position this exhibition: how she wanted to make sure that the works would be showcased to their best possible advantage: to show that ceramics at the top of the south is a force to be reckoned with.

Her idea to get rid of the proverbial white cube and have made semi industrial workbenches forges a relationship with the Potters workshop, and places the works within that context.

Clay comprises two thirds of the earths crust and is the Mother of everything!

We come from it and when our life is over it is to its bosom we return.
It’s infinite variables have served humanity through the millenniums from ancient history to the present day; yet is humble, has no bones, shrinks, dries and cracks; but once through the fire it becomes rock, out living the lifespan of the maker.
This seemingly inert material is taken by the potter who shapes it: breathes life into it, and a form emerges: and once rock, becomes a diary in time that can tell the story of a people and a place – can be the key to that culture and the life lived within it.

I am proud to have been part of the clay tribe!

It’s history reaches back to the drawings on cave walls, where the Shamans, in trance, made clay paintings that acted as an interface to the secrets of the underworld, or after life, and assisted in making sense of the unknown: of the world around them.

If I think about this: of how working with clay is a form of alchemy, and I am never ceased to be amazed at its properties.
It takes a lifetime of learning, and still we only scratch the surface of its secrets, so in many ways we are always in awe of this material even though it is so humble and accessible.
And I think about how in this increasingly materialistic and topsy turvy world, where virtual relationships are a bi- product of technology how the contemporary clay tribe still has a shamanistic function, and I truly believe our role is to be subversive.
Potters are not merely making product, they are looking after the well being of the human condition too!
Take tableware for instance. It can shift the consciousness of the user to transcend the mundane of daily living and make rituals of the simplest tasks that can enrich the human condition in a very elemental way.
There is nothing FAKE about drinking from a vessel that has been made by human hands.
And the arrangement of food on a specific platter can make the cook become the artist, where the platter is merely the canvas for more creativity…..
And of how a conceptual work can trigger an emotional response from the viewer that takes then into their inner being, and the realization of something within themselves.
It has been insightful, while working with Sara and Julie, to see how much the pieces in this exhibition are messengers in their own right, for within the working processes the potters have pushed their works into uncharted territory, coming up with results that are innovative, emotional, provocative and evocative.
I can honestly say my emotions were triggered by the standards of excellence and the concepts
Our geography: our sun our sea and sky, our mountains and clay bound hills form a crucible in which magic happens.
Creative thinkers are forging a rich and what I call an “intellectual peasant culture”where our wines, our beers and our creative pursuits stand with the best in the world.

Our ceramics speak of the makers who live here.

This creates a diversity and enrichment.

Because Sara and Julie have promised that this be a bi- annual slot in the Suter calendar we have a golden opportunity to keep lifting the bar:

To become known both nationally and internationally for what we do. Not only because we are world class, but also because it is a noble profession, rooted in all aspects of the human condition: embracing Head Hands and Heart to do it well.
That is my dream for the contemporary clay tribe at the top fp the south!
Thank you,
Christine Boswijk