Playing With Fire: Ceramics of the Extraordinary

The newest exhibit at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology features 11 BC-based artists who use ceramic sculpture to comment on social phenomena in the world around them. “Playing With Fire: Ceramics of the Extraordinary” will run until March 29th, 2020.

DTES Hotel Bowls by Judy Chartrand

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This installation is called “if this is what you call being civilized, I’d rather go back to being a savage” and speaks about the waves of settlers coming to Vancouver and subsequent changes in the environment. Each hotel was displayed along with a ceramic bowl painted with cockroaches. The “Go back to your own country” bowl was particularly controversial.

The Brendan Lee Satish Tang Installation

This work comments on identity.

Tang’s collection was one of my favorites. His pottery was a mishmash of two different worlds – beautiful traditional Chinese painting on the vases but with parts of modern technology like cables and antennas sticking out.

The Alwyn O’Brien Installation

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O’Brien’s display exemplifies the artistry and craft made from her hand-building mastery. The forms were intriguing, detailed, and appeared fragile. The sculptures were hand-coiled piece by piece, then shaped and added, to the point of feeling like it may collapse.


More of Judy Chartrand

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From a far glance, it was just a wall of Campbell noodle soup cans. Upon closer inspection, each flavour was actually a part of discriminatory abuse. The ‘Cupboard of Contention’ and ‘Counteract’ were particularly eye-catching pieces with strong statements regarding racism.

Artifact by Glenn Lewis

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This wall of salt shakers and its broken chaos were a comment on censorship.

Cross Series #3 by Ying-Yueh Chuang

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This piece is of imaginary plant and sea life situated on the four rivers that lead to Paradise. In other pieces, Chuang addresses inequality of the poor and the wealthy, and seeks harmony between the two sides.

Tree House by Jeremy Hatch

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This is a very large sculpture of a tree. The textures of the bark and the details in the knots are life-like. I was also intrigued at how everything was internally supported without breaking, since ceramic branches can add quite a lot of stress at the connection point to the trunk. This piece is about memory, nostalgia, and loss.

Antechamber by Ian Johnston

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This piece is called “Antechamber.” These four walls of repetitive plates can initially confuse viewers. From far away, the texture of the ceramic looks fabric. Gallery viewers spend a lot of time here observing Johnston’s displays from from away. Antechamber is “a comment on mass condumption, and the relentless repetition points to the enormity of what we produce, only to become waste.”

Boot Case with Nine Black Boots by Gathie Falk

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Supposedly, the inside zippers and seams represent the emotional side of the boot, while the store front side shows the public and decorative skin.

Where I was Brought Up by Bill Rennie

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This piece is about loss and urban development.

Find out more about the Playing With Fire Ceramics exhibit at UBC’s Museum of Anthropology.