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Echoes of ancient Japan in new ceramic art exhibition

7 November 2018

One of Keith’s innovative exhibition artworks, “Crucible 1

A unique exhibition of ceramic artworks made using a 500-year-old Japanese creative process will arrive at Pātaka Gallery + Museum in December.

Artist Tracy Keith will be bringing his exhibition: He oko nā Hine - Vessels of Hine Papatūānuku - to the gallery as part of the new summer season of exhibitions starting on December 16.

Keith made the clay artworks using a small kiln called a “Raku”, a century’s old method used by the Japanese to produce ceramics for their traditional tea ceremonies.

“Raku gives a dramatic and rich patina to the ceramic forms, which is a key factor in the finished design of my artworks”, Keith said.

“I have chosen to work with clay throughout my art career because of its organic response and seductive qualities. For me, this medium has a memory of chameleon characteristics and a rich diverse history.

“Understanding the history and whakapapa of clay helped me practice a holistic attitude towards the development of this work, the organic responses to fabricated forms and shapes or the way the medium stretches and contracts.

“Accepting that weathered shapes and surfaces are at harmony with the simple bowl form gives me a platform to treat these works more like sculpture than pottery.”

Keith said that while the clay artworks are vessels that can be used to hold or carry different materials, each of the pieces are a metaphor for the human condition.

“The uneven surface of each piece references the weathered and layered structures of the land and industry as an intrusive entity.

“When building my ceramic work I intentionally avoid the instantly recognisable and instead create abstract forms that evoke something ancient and timeless, but more importantly also arouse memories.”

Pātaka Contemporary Art Curator Mark Hutchins-Pond said Keith’s special relationship with clay begun 22 years ago at Waiariki Polytechnic, where he gained a Diploma of Māori Visual Arts.

Keith was also helping to shape the next generation of artists through his role of Senior Art Technician at the Massey University College of Creative Arts Toi Rauwharangi, Wellington.”

Hutchins-Pond said the artworks featured in the exhibition were a mix of rawness and modernity.

“The surfaces of his vessels bring to mind industrial fabrications. With little or no glaze, their surfaces appear raw, rough and primal.

“Yet, at the same time, their stripped-back, roughly-cast and embossed forms also seem surprisingly modern.”


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