Mary-Jane Duffy talks to Raewyn Atkinson

Cups, plates and bowls

WASTERS I resized (images courtesy of the artist)A couple of months ago, Raewyn Atkin­son and I met at Golding’s to talk about her new work, cur­rently on view at the Bowen Gal­ler­ies. It was a light Septem­ber after­noon and we sat out­side warm­ing our backs in the late-after­noon sun. I told her my sorry story of miss­ing her 2013 exhib­i­tion at Bowen — such a con­ver­sa­tion starter — but I had kicked myself after hear­ing a stream of glow­ing reports.

The exhib­i­tion was called Wasters, a term used for the rejects of indus­tri­al pro­cessing. She’d star­ted the work for the exhib­i­tion while de facto artist-in-res­id­ence at UC Berke­ley. It reused shards and ceram­ic pieces recovered from the shore of Point Isa­bel in San Francisco’s Bay Area. They were dumped there when the Tepco Pot­tery fact­ory closed and prob­ably while it was still operating.

Raewyn used the shards — often those with decals — to re-cre­ate new plates and new imagery.

And as she said that after­noon, his­tory is a whole lot of shards reas­sembled in dif­fer­ent ways accord­ing to who’s doing the telling. And this sense of recon­struc­ted stor­ies under­pinned the work in Wasters — wheth­er it’s

the recon­struc­ted art his­tory of The oth­er shore, a work that takes the draw­ing by Isaac Gilse­mans’ A view of the Mur­der­ers’ Bay, as you are at anchor here in 15 fathom (1642) and presents it in frag­ments; or the sense of recon­struc­ted lives that the sepia-toned plates — pieced togeth­er from shards — cre­ates with its fam­il­ies of home­less people and their shop­ping trolleys.

The exhib­i­tion also included big­ger works like Wasters I, a large circle of cup pieces with handles still attached. At the top the pieces are ultra-white, but the white mud­dies as the eye travels down. And at the bot­tom, red pieces have barnacles attached. When I noticed this, it made me look at the work a little dif­fer­ently. I got a feel­ing of things sink­ing and regenerating.

And these cup handles bring me to Raewyn’s latest work — a series of wheel-thrown por­cel­ain cups, plates and bowls. They are glazed with her sig­na­ture col­our — a sort of gla­cial blue that melts and con­geals on under­sides, and makes me feel like I’m star­ing through ice at something.

And this exhib­i­tion of domest­ic ware seemed an appro­pri­ate end­ing to the year as we know it: the moment that is sig­nalled by a gath­er­ing of fam­ily and friends around a table laden with food and wine. Every­one exhausted but in cel­eb­ra­tion that it is all, finally, over.

What a year — in the arts, polit­ic­ally, socially. One to remem­ber. And so it was I took pleas­ure in Raewyn’s immer­sion in fam­ily and domest­ic life reflec­ted in these exquis­ite, quiet cups, plates and bowls. Happy holidays.

IMG_3141resized (images courtesy of the artist)

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Art in Decem­ber and January

This month at Enjoy is Loaded, cur­ated by Gary Peters and Sarah Caylor. It fea­tures a super-inter­est­ing mix of artists — Johl Dwyer, Mikay­la Dwyer, Julia Mor­is­on, Eliza­beth New­man and John Nix­on. That’s until 13 Decem­ber, fol­lowed four days later by the annu­al Buy Enjoy. Everything in this exhib­i­tion is $125 and you can often buy your­self a present by your favour­ite artist of the moment. In Janu­ary, cur­at­or Ema Tavola and a group of Pacific artists — Tanu Gago, Leil­ani Kake, Luisa Tora — will be in res­id­ence. Watch that space.[/info]

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About Mary-Jane Duffy

Mary-jane is a Paekakariki-based poet and essay­ist, and Fish­Head’s art colum­nist. She teaches poetry and aca­dem­ic writ­ing on the Whiyireia Cre­at­ive Writ­ing pro­gramme, tor­tur­ing stu­dents with half-rythmes and pan­toums, zom­bie haiku, and line breaks, ref­er­en­cing and struc­ture. Duffy has a back­ground in museum and gal­lery work, mak­ing a lucky escape from the base­ment of the City Gal­lery Wel­ling­ton in 2002 and open­ing the Mary New­town Gal­lery with Paula New­town in 2004. Art (across all the dis­cip­lines) feels like the closest thing she has to reli­gious exper­i­ences — see­ing, read­ing or hear­ing things that make her brain fizz.

About Mary-Jane Duffy

Avatar photo Mary-jane is a Paekakariki-based poet and essayist, and FishHead's art columnist. She teaches poetry and academic writing on the Whiyireia Creative Writing programme, torturing students with half-rythmes and pantoums, zombie haiku, and line breaks, referencing and structure. Duffy has a background in museum and gallery work, making a lucky escape from the basement of the City Gallery Wellington in 2002 and opening the Mary Newtown Gallery with Paula Newtown in 2004. Art (across all the disciplines) feels like the closest thing she has to religious experiences - seeing, reading or hearing things that make her brain fizz.

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