The former Vancouver artist I am researching on behalf of a client has been making pottery since the late 1960s and apparently does not sign his work. From 1970-1975 his studio was at the Angus Service Garage and in 1986 it was located on Alma Street. He currently resides in Montreal, Quebec; is registered with the Architectural Institute of British Columbia; and practices architecture in order to sustain his other artistic endeavours.
His work combines elements relating to ancient architecture, mythology, spirituality and burial totems and appears to be influenced by South American cultures of Incan, Nazcan or Mayan origin. The medium echoes the subject matter and is the message the spirit of Marshal McLuhan may be lurking. The fired clay resonates with attributes associated with ancient building construction and production of food vessels, and as cultural objects specific to a particular civilization.
The image of the lidded vessel shows that the work is both utilitarian and aesthetically pleasing. It incorporates suggestions of architectural elements which collectively speak to the history of the material and all its varied and diverse uses in ancient cultures: the vessel as architecture and as container of human civilization.
The scale deliberately suggests an unresolved tension between architectural monument and personal object; communal or public and private space; and the building and household container. Perhaps there is a reference to a cosmic or astrological connection linking all that is contained within the universe with the practicality of living and the precious mediocrity of life itself. Is the universe contained within the vessel? His work could be read as a small architectural model produced prior to construction, or as a model produced after construction as a memory or record, or perhaps neither.
The universality of the laws of physics which permeates and connects all matter within the universe is a concept which brings to mind the opening lines of William Blakes Auguries of Innocence:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
I am also reminded of Blakes watercolour etching, The Ancient of Days, which depicts God using an instrument of architecture (a set of dividers) to delineate the universe from Heaven: the Creator as omnipotent architect of the universe.
The incongruity of maquette or modello as artwork to completed monument suggests an unknown spatial consequence which is, perhaps as Jean Baudrillard suggests, the hyper-real. The simulacra or modello is not a copy of the real, but a truth in its own right. The long-tailed monkey motif, framed within a square and prominently displayed, seems not to be a makers mark but a deliberate reference to the Nazca Lines as it is identical to an image of that monkey found in Perus Nazca Desert. These enigmatic geoglyphs of zoomorphic designs and phytomorphic shapes are generally believed by most scholars to have some religious significance.
So why do we contemplate the ancient architecture of the universe, spirituality and religion within the context of an ordinary vessel of ordinary material and size? Is the medium the message and is the mediocrity of life a divine miracle which we take for granted? Is the question relevant; is why the right question to ask; or does it matter?
Next: The Case of Mr. Dove