Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Illusions and Spring Awakenings at Gardiner Ceramics Museum

 Each Saturday morning, Toronto Public Libraries provides a limited number of free passes to Toronto museums and historical sites.  A pass is good for 3 months and a family of up to 6 can attend.

We picked up a pass to the Gardiner Museum for ceramics, in order to check out their new exhibit called Illusions by Canadian sculptor Greg Payce.  I expected to see funky shaped ceramics that played played tricks on my eyes.  Instead I found myself looking disappointedly at some rather plain looking vases and urns.  Obviously I didn't get it.   Then reading the placards, it became clear that the illusion is not in the vases, urns, or chalises themselves, but in what is called the "negative space" between the ceramics.  Look between two vases and suddenly human profiles pop out at you.  The white ones are supposed to be the outline of 17th century French writer Voltaire.  The space between two tall black vessels made of aluminum on the third floor review the full figure of a girl and is entitled "Claire".

Because his pieces need to be so carefully positioned in order to achieve his intended effect, Payce often personally attends to the setup.  Recently he has been dabbling in photography and video in order to expand his reach to foreign audiences.  He uses the technique called "lenticular photography" to make his his images seem 3D and almost holographic in that they move when you do.  In a large video installation, projected on 3 walls are three sets of rotating white vessels on which he superimposes images of ceramic glazing from around the world.  One wall  represents ceramics from Asia, another Europe and the last one South America/Mexico.  Another video masterpiece is called "Carpet for Helen" which is a tribute to museum founder Helen Gardiner.  He projects designs from ceramics that can be found in the museum onto the carpet and the audience is invited to walk on it as part of the interaction.

We purposely picked the weekend when there was a 3-day floral show called "Spring Awakenings" at the Gardiner.  Interspersed between the ceramics were gorgeous flower arrangements, often meant to complement their setting.  The display in the Japanese pottery definitely had an Asian flair with the Japanese cherry blossom trees while a bunch of rabbits sitting on hydrangea balls have been positioned right in front of the ceramic rabbit terrine.

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