Monday, November 5, 2012

Gwyn Hanssen Pigott at the MOA

I braved the rain on Saturday to get to the Museum of Anthropology for Gwyn Hanssen Pigott's talk that she gave as part of her exhibit called 'pleased to meet you, introductions by gwyn hanssen pigott'. It's a beautiful and inspiring show whereby Gwyn surveyed the entire collection at the MOA and created installations and groupings based on her aesthetics, interests, and ideas from within her own practice.  Her porcelain groupings of bottle forms, bowls, and beakers are stunningly simple are inspired by the still life paintings of Geogio Morandi, as well as Bernard Leach, Lucy Rie, Michael Cardew, and Hans Coper- all potters that she met and was mentored by in her in her early years of setting up a studio practice in England, France, and then in Australia.  Still an incredibly prolific and highly regarded ceramic artist at 77, I feel pretty in awe of her humble and honest approach to making work.  While appearing understated, her work clearly required a lifetime of skill to achieve such subtle line, curve, and luminosity in porcelain.

This subtle and simple approach was noted as she carefully considered each installation and chose how museum objects would converse together in cases interspersed with her work.  With all the historical information such as dates, places, makers, and context only available in the catalogue, each installation became about a conversation of hand-made objects and the careful consideration and choices made by the artist. Tools, jewelry, wooden boat models, clothing, paper-making materials, ukranian painted eggs, a fan, figurines, and of course, pottery were re-contextualized as the concept of 'parade' or 'transparency' or 'colour' brought them together within a new frame or case.  Clearly the possibilities to organize or bring together objects was endless with 38 000 objects to choose from and only 4 days to do it in!   

Probably my favourite installation included the wooden boat models with Ukranian Easter Eggs carefully nested inside.  The fanfare and celebratory grouping seemed to symbolize Pigott's recent residency and experience in India, where she saw masses of people in brightly coloured sari's and outfits on a pilgrimage to a religious festival. This mixing of her experience in different cultures in the place of handmade objects felt as though it was creating new meaning and memories, especially for objects which no longer function as they were once intended for.  

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