3 mins to read

Ceramic artist's work not all black and white

John Parker retrospective celebrates fifty years of the artist's career.

John Daly-Peoples
Thu, 13 Oct 2016

John Parker, Cause and Effect
Te Uru
Until November 13

John Parker, Cause and Effect
Garth Clark et al

Published by Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery
RRP $85

The John Parker retrospective exhibition at Te Uru is a celebration of 10 years of the artist’s career as a major ceramic artist.

Parker is one of New Zealand’s most consistently innovative potters, always seeking fresh ways to push the boundaries of clay production. He takes inspiration from art-house cinema, Wagner, Beatles albums, commercial potteries such as Crown Lynn and Wedgwood, and even the manufacture of power pole insulators.

Cause and Effect explores the different ideas and experiences that continue to influence Parker’s work, often recurring in cyclical fashion over periods of time to lead him in surprising new directions. This includes exploring the relationship between the worlds of handmade craft and machine production, experimentation with fiction and narrative themes but always through a love affair with surface and materiality.

The works in the show begin with some of his early stoneware works including the Nixon bottles, which are embossed with an article about Richard Nixon. These are an early example of the artist producing work with narrative as well as a political aspect.

Politics can be seen in several other works notably his Safe Sex Bottles of the early 1990s which take the shape of condoms.

There are other works with a narrative aspect such as his plates designed for the Devils Food café with illustrations from Ken Russel’s film The Devils.

Other plates and bowls have used the Willow Pattern designs of 18th-century ceramic designers.

His debt to other ceramic artists can be seen as his work develops. In the early bottle works the influence of Len Castle is apparent while Hans Coper and Keith Murray influenced the producing white works. His debt to Lucie Rie can be seen in his use of novel forms and the joining of shapes.

As well as including his iconic black and white works the exhibition also features some of his dramatic coloured glazed work as well as ones in which he has included electroplated elements.

One aspect of Parker’s work is the architectural or sculptural nature of it whereby he creates structures rather than vessels. Some of the sculptural works, such as his Zigzag vessels, look like sculptures by Brancusi.  Many of his works seem to have been derived from industrial shapes and processes,

His Lattice Bowls, a non-functional series of works have a traditional craft appearance and look as though they have more in common with knitting.
They seem derived from spherical moulds and so take on an organic shape, displaying the hand-made nature of the work and appearing to have been made of cake icing or stalactites.
These organic shapes are all based on a grid shape, have a structural appearance like the internal structure of an organic or architectural curved shape and are reminiscent of the latticed engineering works of architect Pier Luigi Nervi.

His architectural interests are also seen in the display of small pieces of model furniture, which he has created in his work as a theatre designer as well as an installations piece, Clear and Present Danger, a work made especially for the exhibition consisting of 200 white grooved cones mounted on the gallery wall. He has collaborated with lighting designer Philip Dexter, who has provided lighting that illuminates the cones with changing colours that provide a changing landscape of shapes and, shadows and colours.

The exhibition is accompanied by a book, John Parker, Cause and Effect. It features contributors from around the world, including internationally renowned writer Garth Clark, who studied with Parker at the Royal College of Arts in London in 1974 and 1975. It is illustrated with newly commissioned photographs by Haruhiko Sameshima plus  essays by Jim Barr and Mary Barr, Andrew Clifford, Grace Cochrane and Douglas Lloyd Jenkins.

John Parker will give a free tour of his exhibition, in conversation with Te Uru Director, Andrew Clifford, on Sunday, October 16 at 3pm as part of ArtWeek.

John Daly-Peoples
Thu, 13 Oct 2016
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Ceramic artist's work not all black and white