– Words by Sean McIntyre Photographs by Lia Crowe
If mention of ceramic Stirring images of clay pots, earthenware cups and craft fairs, Samantha Dickie’s work is sure to offer a refreshing new perspective.
The Victoria-based ceramic artist aims to reshape perceptions of the art form while using the medium to promote a deeper, closer and more intuitive look at human existence and the myriad contrasts that make up the natural world. A tall order, no doubt, but it’s a mission that Samantha has masterfully refined over more than two decades by paying attention to individual forms and how these pieces interact with each other.
During a guided tour of an exhibition entitled A given moment Featured at the Victoria Arts Council Gallery in October, Samantha explained how she seeks to inspire viewers to think about. She likened it to a form of contemplative practice walking, in which visitors to the gallery become participants who engage in the installations.
His work is a study in contrast. Simple shapes are cast in multitudes. A given moment composed of four works with a total of over 4,000 components. In one section of the exhibit, an enclosed closet-like space that was once a bank safe in the building‘s previous life contained no less than 1,800 hand-crafted ceramic stones. Nearby, hundreds of dollar-sized discs of sand were suspended by translucent filaments of varying lengths to form a giant floating sphere. The cup-shaped discs opposed each other like splayed palms in a meditative pose.
âThe pieces explored this ethereal, this contemplation and this pause,â she says. “He explored the concepts of space and how you can feel it inside yourself.”
Samantha explains how this particular installation aimed to highlight the âempty spaceâ between objects as much as it was a demonstration of the finely molded ceramic elements.
In the same way that the philosophical branch of phenomenology aims to identify the essence of natural phenomena and of experience, Samantha’s work gives viewers the opportunity to pause and examine the relationships between sound and sound. silence, objects and “empty” space, as well as the distinction between the built landscape and the natural world. It is this distinction and the varying degrees of transition between states, she says, that define what it is to be human.
âMy belief that our humanity is essentially rooted in relationship dynamics provides the impetus behind using scale and multiples to create large-scale, multi-component groupings and immersive installations,â she says.
Kegan McFadden, curator of A given moment show, summed up the power of contrast and extremes in Dickie’s work in his curatorial statement for the October gallery exhibition.
âBy playing with the perspective and the phenomenological experience of movement in gallery space, she forces viewers to confront the way they observe the space and what they perceive, and ultimately to question the way from which they live his work, âhe writes. âDickie’s work becomes cellular and its massive opposite, an elastic timeline without end or beginning, a stratospheric excavation. It is both micro and macro. This tension reflects the reality that the nearly four thousand delicate ceramic components that make up this facility were fabricated in the dangerously extreme, yet controlled, heat of its kiln. This is how pressure gives birth to poetry.
Samantha’s work hasn’t always been rooted in philosophy, but a look at her career reveals that a meaningful exploration of space, time, and human existence may have been the inevitable destination.
The artist launched her career as a ceramic artist in the late 1990s, shortly after earning a degree in Feminist and Indigenous Studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., Then trained as a technical ceramist and graduated a ceramic degree from the Kootenay School of the Arts. . A relentless curiosity and deep questioning of human existence, as well as further research and reading in the fields of neuroscience, physics and philosophy, offer him the chance to use his passion for ceramics as a place deeper exploration of our world and human experience with a focus on abstract expressionism and minimalist sculpture in an installation practice.
âIn 1997, my work began at the wheel creating unique functional and decorative pieces, and has developed over the years towards abstraction, sculpture and installation,â she writes on her site Web. âEarly sculptural works include explorations to scale; to dig and print the clay; multilayer textured enamels; and reduction, smoke and wood firing.
Samantha’s work has since been exhibited and sold in galleries across Canada and the United States. His works have been exhibited in the open sky of the Yukon and are presented in prestigious retail spaces including a Louis Vuitton boutique in Boston. As if building intricate sculptural works weren’t complex enough, this fall she was working on the logistics of shipping three six-foot-tall sculptures for permanent display in Hawaii. Amidst the greater awareness of her work in faraway places, Samantha says, it’s been great to be a part of the local scene here in Victoria. Last year, for example, the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria acquired a work titled The gesture of grace, one of the largest sculptural pieces in the gallery.
Samantha’s growing profile has notably been invited to give an increasing number of talks and artist workshops online and in person, offering her the chance to share her unique and modern take from a traditional art form to a wider audience.
His next exhibition opens at Victoria’s Fortune Gallery (537, rue Fisgard) on February 17. Her work can also be found locally at the Madrona Gallery or by booking an in-person visit to her studio through her website: samanthadickie.com.
Article courtesy of Boulevard Magazine, a Black Press Media publication
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