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April 25, 2002 Imaginative imprints from Concordia ceramics students



Simon Heller

Ceramics major Simon Heller with his ceramic alphabet.

Ceramic pots

Ceramic flower pots from the series Open Ground.

Photos by Andrew Dobrowolskyj

by Anna Bratulic

Ceramic sculptures and installations were presented in a year-end exhibit at the VAV Gallery last week. The works were done by students from four ceramics classes and were centred around the theme of working with one’s hands.

The “hand” connotation is evident from the title of the exhibit, The Arch, the Loop and the Whorl, which takes its name from the three most common types of fingerprints, and, as Professor Thérèse Chabot explained, that is what makes ceramics different from other arts.

“We work with our hands in ceramics because clay is something which is very tactile,” she said. “Everything in the gallery for the exhibit has to do with gesture. Perhaps the same could be said about anything. Even in technology, in using the computer mouse, we can say we’re working with our hands, but the imprint is not there.”

The theme of working with hands

One of the exhibits, titled Making Marks — Establishing a System, consisted of small, irregularly-shaped ceramic structures made by pressing pliable clay on parts of the body, and then suspending the hardened shapes in a roughly human pattern from the ceiling. The suspending structure’s shadow falls on the adjoining wall where there is a projected image of a fingerprint.

Gardening, another distinctly manual activity, was the theme for one of the larger installations. Open Ground was a series of exhibits that went from symbolic community “gardens” consisting of ceramic objects and other personal items to stretch out into the courtyard of the Visual Arts Building, where real tulip bulbs were planted.

The garden project stems from Chabot’s six-credit course on Art, Nature and the Garden, which included a residency-workshop in the Laurentians last Thanksgiving. The class collaborated with the Quebec-based contemporary art and nature group Boréal Art/Nature.

“We were there for only three days and each student had to find their own space, sort of out of the blue, and do something with it,” Chabot said. The ideas that germinated during this excursion were developed throughout the year and bore fruit in the collective Open Ground project.

In addition to contributing to the garden project, Studio Arts student Kim Lippert presented an individual work consisting of 21 ceramic urns, one for each year of her life, containing water and floating locks of her hair.

“Each urn represents the death of past experiences. They’re like boxes that you can put those experiences in to remember them by. The hair is just to give it a personal touch,” said Lippert, whose hair now extends only to her upper arms, not her hips.

Other exhibits included the interactive project In the Heart of the Downtown Cultural Business District, a pathway made of large, multi-coloured, unfired (soft) clay tiles that passersby walked on if they chose to.

Often spectators didn’t know whether they ought to walk on the tile path or walk around it, although the many shoeprints suggest that many people did so. The idea is to look at receptivity and avoidance on the part of people walking on busy downtown streets.