The Manningham Ceramics award is currently staging in the new MC2 art gallery at Doncaster opposite the city library. There are 46 diverse and extraordinary works exhibited out of 140 odd applicants. Prizes were awarded last Wednesday night (July 10) as judged by David Hurlston, Curator of Art at the National Gallery of Victoria. I have been to many of David Hurlston’s exhibitions and appreciated them for their greatly satisfying breadth.
In the finality and excitement of the actual pronouncement of the awards last Wednesday some simple truths were lost to sight. David Hurlston judged 140 works and declared 46 winners. The breadth of the exhibition is wonderful.
There is confusion and disappointment and sometimes a sense of failure or even shame in not measuring up to selection for an exhibition. What could have been better? How much more time should I have devoted to it? Did I really even want to win? What is the break even time for cost to benefit? Is this really representative of my work or just something to impress the judges? Should I break out and experiment with something new or follow the tried and true, safe and easy? Does concept interfere with object? What does the winners work say about mine? Should I give up?
That is not the intent of the judge or the competition and no one is being targeted for not measuring up or being an unworthy person. It is one man’s decision based on one man’s experience in a field of specialisation which endows him with some aesthetic sensibilities which may or may not be relevant to our experience as ceramic artists. Overlaid onto this selection is a political requirement to tick all boxes for inclusive culture and the criteria of the awards. I would not want the role. But judgement does make you strive harder and all applicants have probably benefited from the mental stretch. Those who were chosen will have gained a huge confidence boost and maybe even some significant new audience.
Tracy Muirhead utensils photo credit Marlize Myburgh
The exhibition satisfied the criteria for me of opening up conversation about ceramics. It showed handbuilt, conceptual, highly crafted wheel thrown, cast and manipulated technical virtuosity, intuitive, colour, form, old, new, large, small, surface treatments, ceramics as elements of larger works, stand alone and contextual, fragile and rock solid, absurd and mundane. If you think you know what ceramics is then you will be surprised to find it is not just functional and funky Craft Victoria but everything that the mind can imagine and some of it is very skilful indeed.
That awards were also provided with the exhibition is a bonus and all congratulations go to those who secured them. Reward for art is difficult to come by and when ceramics is mostly relegated to the field of Crafts, reward and the respect that goes with it are even harder to find.
Victorian 1st prize Acquisitive Award ($5,000)
Petrus Spronk for his work Landscape of the mind.
Valley of the Arts Acquisitive Awards (up to $4,000)
Neville French Mungo Light 7
Janetta Kerr-Grant Urban Light, Winter
Vanessa Lucas Stone Jugs
Tracy Muirhead UtensilsTerunobu Hirata Facetted vase with triangular topAlan Constable Not titled (blue concertina camera)
To listen to some of the artists talking about their work you can go to this site which will also give you viewing times and a list of the artists in the exhibition.
I am going back for a quieter slower viewing as I think many pieces deserve some more looking.