Drawing the exhibition: Pure Form

Pure form: Japanese sculptural ceramics*, is a new exhibition at the Art Gallery of South Australia showcasing Japanese ceramics from the 1950s to the present day.

Installation shot of work, (foreground to background), Object (nogata), saiseki zōgan, Kishi Eiko, 2005; Shell-shaped covered vessel (Kai futamono), Koike Shōko, 2009: No.3 Erosion, Shingu Sayaka, c. 2020; Untitled, Katsumata Chieko, 2021; and Box Batter-17, Mishima Kimiyo, 2017.

The exhibition spreads across several rooms and is breathtaking in it’s array of forms, textures and graphic presence. I had only a limited time to draw in the gallery today. The hardest thing was to decide what to sketch first.

I started with a darkly glazed vessel by Mihara Ken, whose concertina-shaped folds reminded me of Issey Miyake garments.

Sekki, Mihara Ken, c. 2010, Matsue, stoneware and glaze,
collection of Raphy Star. Sketch, graphite on paper.

Next to the work of Mihara Ken was a form by Misaki Mitsukuni. The surface, which I was unable to do justice to, is created by the artist rubbing slip into the surface, which he has described as ‘Rothkoing’.

Coloured stoneware vessel (saiyūdeki), Misaki Mitsukuni, 2017, Tomisato, stoneware. Sketch graphite on paper.

Turning my chair I could see another work by Mihara Ken, a form that appeared as if folded out of sheets of clay. The glazes were very subtle blue greys and deep brown.

Genesis (Kigen) no.1, Mihara Ken, 2013, stoneware, glaze,
National Gallery of Australia. Sketch graphite on paper.

Finaly, I did a very quick sketch, part contour drawing, of Kaneshige Kosuke’s work, Tall sculptural form, c. 2006.

Tall sculptural form, Kaneshige Kosuke, c. 2006, Bizen city, stoneware,
collection of Raphy Star. Sketch, graphite on paper.

*Pure form: Japanese sculptural ceramics is accompanied by an extensive catalogue (which I will be looking at for quite some time).

The exhibition and book are by Russell Kelty, Curator of Asian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia.

The exhibition runs until 6 November 2022 at the Art Gallery of South Australia. Get there if you want to see some amazing ceramics!

Moche ceramics

I have a season pass to the Gold and the Incas exhibition, at the National Gallery of Australia. I like being able to spend time having a good look at one or two individual works in detail. I do this by drawing them. However drawing is proving very challenging in the low-light conditions in the exhibition. For a lot of the time while I was making these drawings  I couldn’t actually see the tip of my pencil on the page.

This visit I drew two ‘stirrup’ vases, (they get their name from the shape of the handle), although this is clearly not what their makers, the Moche people called them* because stirrups were not introduced into South America until the Spanish invasion, some 800 years after these pots had been made. Both of these works come from the Museo Larco, in Lima, Peru. Some highlights of the Museum ‘s collection are also accessible through the Google Art Project, which is both in English and Spanish.

Most striking in the vases on display are the portrait vases, where faces are deftly sculpted in the round and painted in strong colours.

Moche vase, portrait head, 100-800 AD, ceramic, from the collection of the Museo Larco, Lima, Peru ML000267.

Moche vase, portrait head, 100-800 AD, ceramic, from the collection of the Museo Larco, Lima, Peru ML000267.

I also made a second drawing of another Moche pot in the shape of four pepinos. The symbolism of the four melons is believed to be related to the four cardinal directions.

Moche culture, vase in the form of Pepinos, ceramic, from the collection of the Museo Larco, Lima, Peru ML006659.

Moche culture, vase in the form of Pepinos, ceramic, from the collection of the Museo Larco, Lima, Peru ML006659.

I particularly enjoy the colours used on these pots so once I got home I scanned and printed out the pictures I had drawn and then I indulged myself with a bit of good old-fashioned colouring in.

Moche pot with pepinos, 24 March 2014 watercolour.

Moche pot with pepinos, 24 March 2014 watercolour.

The coloured stripes on the face in the next image are not shadows. The face actually has two colours, umber on one side and a burnt sienna on the other, painted over the glazed terracotta and provide evidence of painted facial decoration.

Moche portrait pot, 24 March 2014, watercolour.

Moche portrait pot, 24 March 2014, watercolour.

*Actually the Moche pots are referred to as pacchas in the exhibition catalogue. These are ritual objects, also made in materials other than ceramics, which generally consist of a form that conducts or conduits liquid through them. These vessels were used in life and were also buried with the dead. Their symbolism is related to the connection between the exterior and interior ‘worlds’ that meet during rituals and at the moment of death.