8 November 2010 by Dianne Tipping-Woods

Soothing ceramics

You know the days when you’ve got things to do, but lack the power to get them done? Time slows down, you compulsively check the same few websites you’ve already checked, you catch up on some e-mails and, as you make yourself another cup of coffee, you realise it is only 09h30 and the whole, grey day still lies ahead of you? I was having one of those days.

I had to break the torpor - or write the whole day off.

Unable to face my computer a second longer, I dragged my sorry self to the car, and, having been meaning to visit for ages anyway, went to the Pretoria Art Museum to have a look around.

It worked, because R6 and two hours later here I am, at my desk again and typing away, if not exactly inspired, more hopeful about the afternoon ahead.

They have three exhibitions on at present. The first, by graduating students from the University of Pretoria, called Compulsive Aesthetics, is too complex an intellectual undertaking for my current mood (some brilliant work though). The second is on the story of South African art. It is too vast an undertaking for my current mood, spanning as it does, the last two centuries (although undoubtedly worth another visit).

So I’m left with the third. An exhibition of ceramics from the Corobrik Collection.

But as I wandered from piece to piece, I found the shapes coolly comforting (Maaren Zaalberg’s ‘Pedestal Bowl’), strangely provocative (Josephine Gesha’s ‘Crocodile with Fish Stole’),  disturbing (Drury Brandt’s ‘Red Cross, Black Cross’),  challenging (Hylton Nel’s ‘Fido’) and others,  quietly undemanding (Martha Zettler’s series called ‘Infinite’).

For me, the word ‘ceramics’ is usually a turn off. I’ve just never found it particularly interesting before and have made little effort to learn more about it as an art form, understanding it instead as something functional - pots and vases - that kind of thing.

But as I wandered from piece to piece, I found the shapes coolly comforting (Maaren Zaalberg’s ‘Pedestal Bowl’), strangely provocative (Josephine Gesha’s ‘Crocodile with Fish Stole’),  disturbing (Drury Brandt’s ‘Red Cross, Black Cross’),  challenging (Hylton Nel’s ‘Fido’) and others,  quietly undemanding (Martha Zettler’s series called ‘Infinite’).

Bonnie Ntshalintshali’s ‘Noah’ is joyful and Cilla William’s piece called ‘Burnished Porcelain’ is simply beautiful. The textures, glazes, decorative elements and varied techniques worked like a piece of music on my mind, variations on a theme making up a body of work that was settling. It worked like a meditation to clear my mind.

I don’t know enough about South African ceramics to say much more. This no doubt makes me unappreciative of many aspects of the work I saw. But I’m going to google around, do a bit of reading and give the exhibition another visit, a less selfish one next time round.

Category: Arts & Entertainment

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