La céramique en plein essor

La céramique en plein essor

September 16 to November 21, 2021

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The exhibition La céramique en plein essorfeatures works by ten contemporary Canadian artists who dedicate their artistic practice to the medium of clay. These artists base their work on in-depth research and exploration of the material while experimenting with other mediums, and sometimes even technologies. The exhibition introduces different techniques that use clay in the making of the works. The artists, both established and emerging, push clay in new directions and explore the countless possibilities this material offers.

Ceramics has been part of our daily life since prehistoric times. Used for creating both utilitarian and non-utilitarian objects, it has always been at the intersection of fine arts and crafts. For decades, ceramics has been marginalized and relegated to the status of crafts. By continuing to blur the lines between fine arts and crafts, artists are redefining what was once considered a traditional practice.

Nowadays, ceramics is considered a dominant and relevant art form. What accounts for this rise in ceramic practice? This renewed interest is part of a broader cultural shift towards handmade works. Because of its malleability when worked, and its durability, clay—a polyvalent medium with a rich history having made its way through the ages—appeals to artists. It allows them to translate their artistic expression into a three-dimensional world. Clay offers an intimate and meditative experience to create, which, in turn, forges a deep bond between the artist and the material.

Learn More About Ceramics

Ceramics is the result of the fusion of the four elements: earth, water, air, and fire. Ceramics involves a variety of clays, coatings, forming, and firing techniques that can take a lifetime to explore. It is demanding, constraining, unpredictable, and requires expertise at all stages of creation. To better appreciate the works in the exhibition and to understand the complexity of the selected artists’ practices, here is a brief overview of the process involved:

Selecting clay: There are several clay bodies, each with their own qualities and challenges. The main categories are earthenware, stoneware, and porcelain.

Working with clay: It can be transformed into any conceivable form through three main techniques: handbuilding, throwing, and molding. Handbuilding—dating back to prehistoric times—consists of all techniques of manipulating clay by hand to shape it as desired.

Firing the work: Glazing and firing complete the making of a work. The glaze is a vitrified coating that is melted onto the surface, giving the piece different effects (colours, finishes, decorations, etc.). When subjected to very high temperatures, the previously malleable clay takes a fixed form and can sometimes give unexpected results.

Celebrating the wonderful intersection of fine art and crafts, La céramique en plein essor strives to create dialogues and demystify this distinction that still persists. The artists question the world we live in, and the works presented invite us to change our perspective on both clay and contemporary art.

Photos: © Eliza Au, Katja van den Even, Laurent Craste, Steven Heinemann.