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Winnipeg
Steven Leyden Cochrane
HEAT at Actual Contemporary, Winnipeg
October 06, 2015

Earlier this summer, the Manitoba Craft Council brought together six artists whose contemporary practices map the complex cross-cultural and, at times, highly personal histories of ceramic objects. Touching on themes of cultural appropriation and exchange, mass-production, and the value of labour Play, Precarity and Survival was just one of several recent and upcoming opportunities to consider the medium’s scope and potential. (Curator Sigrid Dahle herself cited as inspiration Rebecca Belmore’s 2014 community-assisted installation at the Canadian Museum of Human Rights, Trace, a massive blanket made from thousands of hand-formed river-clay beads).

HEAT, which opened alongside a wide-ranging exhibition of new work by Mélanie Rocan last month at Actual Contemporary, is an engaging showcase of three regional artists who exploit that potential to very different ends



Zachari Logan, Root 1

Zachari Logan loses himself in ornamentation – parts of himself, anyway. His Fountain 1 is a teeming birdbath-cum-mushroom cloud of white ceramic floral motifs, while Root 1, the initially unassuming though beautifully sculpted and painted ceramic weed, reveals a startling root system on second glance.

Osvaldo Yero’s incisive mashups of kitsch objects help to resolve (or at least to visualize) the unsettled syncretism of post-colonial identity. In Untitled (Duelo) (Spanish for “duel,” though it can refer to grief or pain), Jesus and a cross-armed “Indian chief” turn their backs on one another, in the process slipping their individual iconic functions to form a new if unwitting hybrid. A similar but altogether more surreal fusion occurs in The End, an Arcimboldesque assemblage of found figurines that coalesce into the slouching form of Frederic Remington’s End of the Trail.

Though rooted in formal experimentation and play, Grace Nickel’s work seamlessly integrates ancient and modern ceramic technologies. Her twisting Reconfigured – JDZ Column references natural forms, modernist sculpture, and traditional blue-and-white decorative motifs, while collaborations with her husband Michael Zajac exploit a photographic technique adapted in the early seventies to document Maya vase painting. Rollout photographs of Nickel’s richly-textured, abstractly botanical cylindrical reliefs are projected flat and transferred to porcelain tablets, effecting interesting slippages between image and object, ceramics, photography, and the suggestion of painting.

HEAT runs through the end of the month, but it’s only one piece of an ongoing citywide celebration of ceramic work. In the coming weeks I plan to savour and slowly work my way through MUD, Hands, fire. Wheel Thrown. The Legacy of Canadian Studio Pottery, a lavishly stocked and staged trove of functional pieces at the University of Manitoba’s School of Art Gallery. The opening coincided with a three-day conference that, amidst keynote addresses and studio demonstrations, featured a delightful pop-up exhibition by students at a host of regional universities and colleges, as well as teaching staff, studio techs, and conference participants – a format that underscored the community atmosphere that emerges through the shared facilities, enthusiasm, and expertise.


Actual Contemporary: http://www.actualgallery.ca/exhibitions/2015/9/5/heat-1
HEAT continues until October 31.


Steven Leyden Cochrane is an artist, writer, and educator based in Winnipeg, where he contributes weekly exhibition reviews to the Free Press. He is Akimbo’s Winnipeg correspondent and can be followed @svlc_ on Twitter.

 

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