Me Like Clay!

Jomon Bowl, 1500 BCE;  Minoan Octopus Jar, 1300 BCE
When our distant ancestors quit their roaming and settled down, one of the first materials they turned to for its expressive possibilities was clay.

Of course clay is eminently practical - it's watertight and once fired, surprisingly durable - hence the existence of pots thousands of year old. But we humans being artful creatures, just plain pots weren't good enough. The pot makers of Jomon Japan decorated their vessels with exuberant, swirling rims, while in the ancient Aegean the sea-faring Minoans wrapped the image of an octopus around a spherical vessel, beautifully marrying form and content.

Wayne Ngan, Beige Vase, 2008. Stoneware, 9″ x 6 ¼ ” x 5 7/8”
Fast forward to today, and we find this marvelously adaptable medium continuing to offer artists wonderful possibilities for expression. Hornby Island-based ceramicist Wayne Ngan upholds the modernist studio pottery tradition, creating vessels fusing Asian-inspired minimalism with a unique vocabulary of shapes that is distinctly his own. Ngan's stoneware vessels have a serene monumentality that seems timeless. Ngan's work is on view at Daniel Faria Gallery until December 6.

Brie Ruais, Perimeter with Crumpled Center, 2013.
The ceramic sculptures of Brie Ruais, by contrast, have an urgent quality that brings to mind the gestural fury of Abstract Expressionism. The Brooklyn-based artist's two part porcelain sculpture, Perimeter with Crumpled Center, on view as part of Arsenal Toronto's Next exhibition, features a large wall-mounted ring glazed in primarily colours applied with painterly abandon, and a floor element that reminded me of a giant mashed blob of toothpaste. You just want to run your toes through it, so appealingly squishy and visceral does it look.  

Next, a group show of 19 up-and-coming American artists, is on view at Arsenal Toronto till February 15, 2015.