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Peter Lange awarded Craft/Object Art Fellowship

Peter Lange awarded Creative New Zealand Craft/Object Art Fellowship

Peter Lange, creator of the world's first brick boat and a leading figure in the craft/object art sector, has been awarded this year's $65,000 Creative New Zealand Craft/Object Art Fellowship.

Lange, who has worked in ceramics for more than 30 years and has been director of Auckland Studio Potters' Teaching Centre since 1997, has just returned from Wales where he was one of 15 international demonstrators at the Welsh Potters Festival at Aberystwyth. At the festival, he built a kiln out of ice and another out of wood.

He began working with bricks three years ago and says there is something "simple, honest and basic" about them. Along with his boat, he's made bags and teapots out of bricks. His 1.6 metre-wide, 600 kilogram Brick Basket is on display at Waiheke Island's sculpture park. On a smaller scale, there are the teapots he's made using single bricks. And in 2002, he built a two-tonne, six-metre-long brick boat, Anagama, which he floated on Auckland Harbour.

"It was just one of those weird things that happened to me," Lange says. "I was sitting inside a kiln and it felt like I was sitting under a brick boat. It was an idea I tucked away in my mind and it didn't happen for five years. But it did happen. I probably could have had the whole All Blacks team on board and it still wouldn't have sunk."

Now, as the second recipient of the largest fellowship in New Zealand for craft/object artists, Lange is excited about the opportunity to produce innovative new work. Over the next 12 months, he will work on large and small-scale works, using bricks, tiles and other ceramic components, culminating in an exhibition of his work in both indoor and outdoor spaces.

The annual Creative New Zealand Craft/Object Art Fellowship was established in 2004 in response to recommendations in a strategy for the craft/object art sector, developed by Creative New Zealand in close consultation with the sector. Aimed at mid-career and senior practitioners, it is available to artists, writers and curators. The inaugural recipient in 2004 was artist Malcolm Harrison.

Lange was selected by a committee made up of leading craft/object art practitioners and a member of the Arts Board. Committee members described Lange as a "vital, creative energy" in the ceramics sector and said his proposal had the wow factor. "He is a risk-taker with an ability to engage people in the ideas he works with in his practice. His wit and imagination are always manifest in his work. His proposal was very persuasive, with the potential to inject new energy into his practice and the wider ceramics sector."

Chair of the Arts Board Alastair Carruthers says the Creative New Zealand Craft/Object Art Fellowship provides an artist with a sustained period of time to take risks, experiment and create innovative new work. "Peter is a senior artist whose work is constantly challenging the predictable. I look forward to seeing the impact that this major fellowship will have on his work as he explores new ideas and forms."

The fellowship gives artists a shot at making work they would otherwise never be able to make, Lange says. "With a bit of luck it may be important work, or influential, or change people's perception of looking at a material.

"There are so many things I want to do. Some of them are things that aren't very sensible but are really interesting. This is a chance to have a go at the stuff that perhaps I would have been a bit nervous about tackling or simply couldn't afford to do."

The new work, he says, is bound to be influenced by his home in Mount Eden, Auckland. "I'm very influenced by where I live, in New Zealand and specifically Mount Eden. I've lived there for 30 years and it's grown on me. I walk up Maungawhau, the mountain, every day and get another view on the world. I'm not a particularly spiritual person but it refreshes my soul and allows interesting thoughts to drift into my mind."

Lange has worked, taught and exhibited in New Zealand and throughout the world. Highlights in recent years include being an official demonstrator at the 2002 Aomori Wood-fire Festival in Japan and being selected to take part in a terracotta and brick symposium in Eskisehir, Turkey in 2003. In 1997, he taught at the Dubai Art Centre in the United Arab Emirates.

Lange has twice received the Merit Award at the Fletcher Challenge Art Award in 1985 and 1986. His work features in a number of collections, including in the Auckland Museum, Christchurch Art Gallery, the Beehive, Suzhou School of Art in China, and the Aberystwyth Arts Centre in Wales.


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