We Do Not Work Alone
Laura Wee Láy Láq, Petals (#300), 1988, sawdust fired ceramic

We Do Not Work Alone

Nanaimo Art Gallery, Nanaimo, BC - To Oct 3

by Michael Turner

The title of this exhibition, taken from the writings of Japanese potter and mingei movement co-founder Kawai Kanjiro (1890-1966), refers to both the potter’s collaboration with the elements during the making of a pot and the cumulative knowledge of past potters, from which the present-day potter benefits. Although collaborative examples are more common than not after our relational turn of the early 2000s, romantic notions of the isolated artist persist. Most remarkable about We Do Not Work Alone is that it shifts the myth of the isolated artist to address the reality of the isolated or decontextualized artwork.

Key to the exhibition is the activation of the gallery’s BC ceramics collection as a choral form displayed to greet and well-wish participating artists, craftspeople and other cultural practitioners. Also included is an “archival” section featuring works by Kawai, his mingei co-founder Shoji Hamada and Maria and Santana Martinez, and films by Marty Gross/Mingei Film Archive. At the centre of the gallery are new works by artists Steven Brekelmans, Roy Caussy, Kate Metten, and Laura Wee Láy Láq.

Pots, as most potters tell us, are designed to be held, and in an effort to return that feeling to gallery visitors, the gallery has created an interactive “library” where donated pots can be handled, vases hold flowers and tea is occasionally served. In addition, a market table is available to those interested in taking home fired pottery from the Tozan Cultural Society, local potters who work collectively to maintain a large noborigama kiln and a smaller wood-fired train kiln in Cedar, BC.


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