Various artists: The Chef and the Potter. Watson Arts Centre. Until March 29, 2020.
Do you notice the tableware at restaurants? In an exhibition at the Watson Arts Centre that coincides with Canberra Good Food Month, the focus is on the potters and chefs who enhance our dining experience.
Six artists - Georgina Bryant, Joey Burns, Andres Caycedo, Richilde Flavell, Chris Harford and Annie Parnell - are joined by the chefs and owners that commissioned the tableware for the 21 eateries in the Canberra region. Enriching the exhibition are comments (via wall text) from the chefs/owners on their relationship with the potters in creating aesthetically appealing handmade tableware that enhances their creative culinary dishes.
Each potter has examples of their tableware displayed in individual, casual table settings. The tradition of having identical pieces of tableware that only vary in function and size is replaced by table items that harmonise with each other through commonality of material, glaze and decoration. Bowls rest on serving plates, milk and sugar bowls pair off, big platters are matched to smaller ones in size and small bowls for condiments and sauces form small, friendly groups.
Most of the pieces on display are stoneware which can be quite rustic and robust. In addition, most are wheel thrown and all retain the warm sense of individuality that is characteristic of the handmade.
And although these items are really beautiful and tactile, there is also the practical side of good design that these potters have had to consider for tableware that is used in busy restaurants and bars. Most artists write of this consideration being a stimulating challenge, causing them to extend their skills and knowledge of their craft.
Annie Parnell from Ritual Ceramics displayed an interest from her student days in designing ceramics for the hospitality industry.
The small collection of her tableware on display includes white plates, small bowls and jugs in terracotta and stoneware. They are decorated with a creamy oatmeal glaze.
I have some difficulty with coffee mugs and cups with no handles although I can see the practicalities of them and their visual appeal.
Georgina Bryant from Linburn Handmade finds that her ceramic practice has been enriched by her close collaboration with chefs and owners of restaurants.
Her dark glazed stoneware plates and dishes in subtle variations of earthy colours are accented by areas of dark glossy glaze.
Richilde Flavell of Girl Nomad Ceramics makes strong robust works in earthy colours.
There is subtle interplay of harmony in forms and decoration with some outstanding bowls using a complex glaze on glaze technique.
Flavell notes that the collaboration with eateries has extended her knowledge of the longevity of glazes and the effect that different-coloured ware can have on the presentation of food.
The tableware by Joey Burns from Sawpit Studios displays variations of beautiful blue and green celadon ware that easily bridge the common divide between functionality and aesthetics.
Chris Harford from Spinning Gum Pottery has had a long career in making tableware.
His use of traditional glazes of celadon and the beautiful speckled tenmoku and chun glazes enhances his display of sophisticated Asian inspired tableware.
The inclusion of two elegant trays for sushi, a sake cup and a red dumpling bowl is a reminder that different cultures require different items.
The tableware by Andres Caycedo from Moscoca is a contemporary take on traditional blue and white china.
His jaunty blue and white striped and decorated glazed stoneware is aesthetically pleasing and functional.