Newspaper Review 2005 – Glazed expressions sincere, austere

Glazed expressions sincere, austere

Kamaka: The Ceramics of Bruce and Estelle Martin
Hawke’s Bay Exhibition Centre, Hastings
Until November 6
Reviewed by Terence McKenna

Covering a 40-year period, this exhibition falls short of being a survey of the artists’ work, which is a shame as a major survey would be well deserved.

It does have a tight focus, however, on the inspiration the artists gained from traditional Japanese culture and ceramic techniques.

It features some excellent pieces and includes a small selection from a Japanese potter with whom the Martins were involved in cultural exchanges.

There is a long history of cultural appropriation and exchanges within Western art practices, particularly with Japan and other Eastern countries. These served to revitalise the craft traditions of ceramic production both in the Martins’ work and in other Western artists.

The Eastern philosophical approach to chance and control is evident in this work, where technique allows for accidental effects and changes to the finished works, both in glazing and in form.

The small vase from crashing waves is a good example of this, where it has slumped in the firing without collapsing completely, resulting in a dynamic and interesting form.

Without exception, the glazing is excellent, in some pieces accidental effects such as dribbles, run mottling or crustiness create amazing and beautiful textures while in others the glazing is utilitarian, but nevertheless beautiful.

Compared to ceramics today these works seem a little old fashioned, with their earthy colours and utilitarian forms but if you take the time to appreciate their sincerity and austerity (Eastern values) emerge strongly.

While it poses some questions about culture, this is an enjoyable exhibition that needs time to appreciate and which shows the artists’ sustained creativity of a high order over a long period of time.

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Newspaper article

Date published

12 October 2005

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  • Terence McKenna


Hawke's Bay Today


Published with permission of Hawke's Bay Today

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