We Do Not Work Alone
July 30th - October 3rd

 

Steven Brekelmans, Roy Caussy, John Charnetski, Kybor Dancer, Walter Dexter, Kay Dodd, Marty Gross/Mingei Film Archive, Hamada Shōji, Gordon Hutchens, Charmian Johnson, Kawai Kanjirō, Sam Kwan, Maria Martinez and Santana Martinez, Kate Metten, Wayne Ngan, Lari Robson, Akira Musho Tomita, Hiro Urakami, Laura Wee Láy Láq, and Gari Whelon. 

We Do Not Work Alone activates Nanaimo Art Gallery’s collection of more than sixty-five ceramic works from BC through encounters with contemporary artists, craftspeople, and other cultural practitioners. The exhibition includes an archive section of works by influential 20th century potters Kawai Kanjirō, Hamada Shōji, and Maria and Santana Martinez, and films by Marty Gross/Mingei Film Archive. The central part of the gallery will feature new installations by artists Steven Brekelmans, Roy Caussy, Kate Metten, and Laura Wee Láy Láq.

 

The title comes from the writings of Japanese potter Kawai Kanjirō (1890-1966) who, along with fellow potter Hamada Shōji and art critic Yanagi Sōetsu, founded the Mingei movement, which championed everyday folk crafts made by generations of unknown artisans. For Kawai “we do not work alone” refers to a potter’s collaboration with the elements, and with previous generations of artists. This exhibition both celebrates and flips this perspective, considering pots themselves as social objects that come to life through relationships with users and viewers.  

Museum collections are often compared to graveyards. Divorced from context and out of sight, artworks can lose the vitality that made them compelling in the first place. This critique is highly accurate when applied to ceramic vessels. When they enter into the care of a museum or art gallery, they are usually stripped of their original purposes. Vases are devoid of flowers, teapots remain dry, cups avoid lips, casserole dishes are never heated, and jars only contain air. 

 

In We Do Not Work Alone, however, ceramics that have been donated to the Nanaimo Art Gallery collection will be presented in an interactive “Library” where pots can be held, vases will contain flowers, and tea will occasionally be served. Pottery librarians from wide ranging perspectives will be on hand to share and discuss works by John Charnetski, Kybor Dancer, Walter Dexter, Kay Dodd, Gordon Hutchens, Charmian Johnson, Sam Kwan, Wayne Ngan, Lari Robson, Akira Musho Tomita, Hiro Urakami, Laura Wee Láy Láq, and Gari Whelon.   

 

Historical works in the archive section have to remain in cases, but we hope they can also be brought to life through imagination and conversation. As Kawai himself put it “Any work of art belongs to everyone, because it is whatever each person sees in it”. Often when we connect with others around art, different understandings emerge; we hope that conversations between visitors, artworks, and pot librarians will bring new perspectives to light. 

 

In the central area of the gallery new installations by artists Steven Brekelmans, Roy Caussy, Kate Metten, and Laura Wee Láy Láq were developed in dialogue with the works in the Gallery’s collection. Through their dynamic approaches to ceramics, the artists in this section complicate ideas of use and expand traditional understandings of the potential roles of pots in both galleries and homes. 

 

The exhibition will be accompanied by a market table where visitors can purchase and bring home wood fired pottery from Tozan Society, a local organization of potters who work together to steward a large noborigama kiln, and a smaller wood fired train kiln, in Cedar BC. 

We Do Not Work Alone is the second exhibition in Nanaimo Art Gallery’s inquiry, What is progress?  

 

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Nanaimo, British Columbia
CANADA V9R 5G6

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