The Trusts Portage Ceramic Awards proved their national stature again this year with the top award vein taken by the internationally known ceramic artist, Robert Rapson of Wellington, with his multi-piece installation, Himalaya Serves the World 1949 – Early 70s.
The awards are organised by the Lopdell House Gallery. The winning piece reflects on the era when New Zealand and the world were linked primarily by fleets of ocean liners, including P&O’s iconic Himalaya, which called often and brought thousands of immigrants to New Zealand, Australia, Canada and other Commonwealth countries.
The self taught ceramic artist has a tradition of celebrating the romance of earlier modes of transport that is lauded in North America. He also has ongoing exhibitions at Galerie Impaire in Paris, where his work regularly sells out. “Himalaya” was selected by this year’s international judge. Amy Gogarty of Canada, who said that one of the “truly lovely aspects of the work” was the quality of the painted surface. “Rapson combines efficient drawing, delicious stumbles and keenly observed detail with beautifully modeled plastic form. He reconfigures vivid childhood memories with imagination and wit, creating a vibrant tableau that invites engagement,” she said. The $15,000 Award was presented to Mr Rapson on behalf of this at the awards opening at ‘The Silos’ in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter, where the 60 finalists were on public exhibition. Growth in the awards was proved by the introduction of two international residencies. The first, at Denmark’s Guldagergaard International Ceramics Research Centre was won by another Wellington artist, Richard Stratton, with The Bankers Dog and Hieronymus Bosch Memorial Invalids Cup.
The second residency at Medalta, Medicine Hat, Canada, was awarded to Levin artist, Melissa Ford for her entries, White Trash #10 and Time & Tide. Three $2,000 Portage Merit Awards were also given out to: Canterbury’s Jane McCullah for Walking Within; Kim Henderson (also of Canterbury) for Trailing Skirt Tails 1 & 2, and Northland clay artist, Maria Hewitt took this year’s third merit award with Transaction (Broken Diptych). Each merit award winner received $2,000.
The 60 finalists were selected from more than 200 entries and vary in size from fingernail minute to multi-piece, metre-high installations and range in colour from porcelain white to eye popping psychedelic.
The Portage Ceramic Awards were part of Art Week for the first time this year. International judge Amy Gogarty MFA (Master of Fine Arts University of Calgary) is an independent researcher, writer and artist in Vancouver, Canada. From 1990 to 2006 she taught visual art history and theory and ceramics history at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary. She has served on the board of the Potters Guild of British Columbia and continues to serve on the board of the North-West Ceramics Foundation in Vancouver.