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City Gallery City Gallery Wellington

Past exhibition

Water/Clay

22 September–21 October 1984

ARTISTS Susan Anderson, Anneke Borren, Lore Burbidge, Murray Clayton, Faith Cornford, Flora Christeller, Jean Hastedt, Avis Higgs, Maureen Hunter, Elizabeth Kay, Robin Kay, Vivian Manthel, Philip Markham, Wendy Masters, Shona McFarlane, Cherie McLauchlan, Tui McLauchlan, Jean McKinnon, Patti Meads, Rosemary Mortimer, Jo Munro, Debbie Pointon, Neville Porteous, Adrienne Rewi, Mirek Smíšek, Mary Smith, Malcolm Warr, Gloria Young CURATOR Vivian Manthel SPONSOR Odlins PUBLICATION

Water/Clay showcases collaborations between local painters and local potters. Guest curator Vivian Manthel, President of Wellington Society of Watercolour Artists, selects twenty-eight artists from the Society and the Wellington Potters Association, including herself. They are paired up based on their affinity with or interest in each other’s work. 

Susan Anderson’s watercolour marks echo the amorphous stains in Jo Munro’s smoke-fired ceramic panels. Their Panel I and II contrast the textures of handmade paper and of corrugated and cracked ceramic. 

In Vivian Manthel and Patti Meads’s five 'landscapes', tree-trunk reliefs and folded porcelain hills are reflected against seas of watercolour. There’s a seamless transition from ceramic contours to shadowy watercolours. In the Listener, Dinah Priestley says, ‘it is impossible to see where paper started and clay finished’. 

Other pairings are galvanised by shared politics. Rosemary Mortimer and Gloria Young say their work is ‘concerned with destruction around us, the threat of war, the need to have a voice in what’s happening and the need to record our times’. Their installation Tears for Fears incorporates a fire-charred door frame and a painted porcelain barricade. Tears of red silk stream from an ANZUS poster onto porcelain doilies. During the show, a visitor vandalises the piece, by spray-painting a peace sign and the word ‘Think’ on the barricade.

A graveyard scene, Unanswered Dreams, by ceramicist Jean Hastedt and painter Cherie McLauchlan, incorporates Hastedt’s ceramic candles and cobwebbed cruciform gravestone inscribed ‘Find your unanswered dreams here’. McLauchlan’s watercolours of moonlit headstone silhouettes complete the scene.

Water/Clay includes influential artists such as Mirek Smíšek. In the late 1950s, he was one of New Zealand's first professional ceramicists. His richly textured, signature salt-glazed vessels are paired with Robin Kay landscapes. 

Potter Mary Smith studied under Smíšek, as did President of the Wellington Potters Association, Flora Christeller. Smith and Christeller collaborate with painters, Faith Cornford and Avis Higgs respectively.

In Black and White and Bamboo, the black oxide embellished glaze of Anneke Borren’s bamboo-like totems are accompanied by five Malcolm Warr paintings, in which strident diagonal lines are softened by dark watercolour washes. 

Ceramicist Neville Porteous responds to Shona McFarlane’s still-life watercolours. Tiles and Tamarillos: The Joy of Colour includes two large McFarlane paintings depicting table settings with a recurring tamarillo motif. Porteous’s three tiled islands feature large bowls of porcelain tamarillos.

Tui McLauchlan and Wendy Masters’s Through the Workshop Window portrays the boundary between internal and external worlds via the metaphor of the artist’s studio. McLauchlan’s collaged painting of a bustling cityscape set within two found casement windows focuses on the external. Inside the studio, a table is cluttered with brushes, paint tubes, a vase of daffodils, illustrated botanical texts, a cup of tea, and cheese and crackers is the internal. These—and a pair of cats nestled together on a chair—are all made in porcelain by Masters. 

At the show’s conclusion, visitors have the opportunity to purchase pieces. As a result of Water/Clay, some artists continue to collaborate.