Suvira McDonald on curating a tableware installation In August 2010, as part of the Gangjin International Celadon Festival* tour I visited several Korean ceramics museums. Amongst those was the Korea Ceramics Foundation (KOCEF) which, at the time, was showing Ceramic Dining, a memorable and inspiring exhibition that brought together ceramic artists and stylists.
Whilst it featured tableware, it also included sculpture, wall art and other objects not so easily classified (eg. a clay wall) and various installation components. As in other South East Asian countries, ceramics are highly respected in Korea, and it showed in this exhibition.
Earlier in 2010 I had arranged with a local Byron Bay gallery, Still @ the Centre, for a group exhibition of functional work. The available space was not the usual gallery space, but rather the upstairs art workshop space, with limited hanging space and a grungy appearance. Inspired by my experience in Korea, in particular the Ceramic Dining exhibition, my concept became clear, and Table Manners was born. My aim was to explore the collaboration of handmade ceramics with other arts related to dining, especially the art of styling.
With the amplified exposure to food preparation by media, and much of that infused with Asian master chefs, east-west ceramic styles are attaining new levels of acceptance in Australian table settings. A primary interest for me as curator of this work was to place our ceramics in the context of the table, away from the object-on-plinth convention. I wanted to have ceramics styled as part of an ensemble with flowers, sculpture and other table trappings expectantly awaiting food.
With five makers of tableware, a sculptor, an installation artist, two flower artists, a lighting designer and two stylists, there were numerous permutations to exploit. It was not difficult to produce a diverse collection of settings with such an eclectic meeting of artists.
The following artists were involved:
Malcolm Greenwood, a versatile production potter extraordinaire who has a long history in the Sydney ceramics community.
Michaela Kloeckner, who, having transcended functionality, produces pots with a quirky sexual edge; her work was an obvious choice to couple with the styling of Simon Ruffell.
Dragi Jankovic, a travelling companion I met on the Gangjin exhibition tour who was still under the Korean spell.
Kyong Hee Kim, who pots with a strong influence from her Korean homeland. Kyong chose not to combine with a stylist in the presentation of her work.
Kylie Stoddart, whose ceramic installation showed a collection of beautifully carved and drawn bowls fresh from her SCU graduation show.
And me, Suvira McDonald, who can claim little more than being a tableware dabbler, as my energies are also directed to other art activities.
In addition, there were:
Sculptural arrangements of flora from Georgie Taylor of Bangalow Rose and Di Morison’s Sogetsu Ikebana, as well as Equus sculptures from Susanne Fraser (also a travelling companion in Korea).
Simon Ruffell from Eat Drink Catering and Monique Harrison from Seaweed Cuisine, both high-end Byron Bay wedding caterers, provided their styling skills.
Ben Sullivan, a local lighting maestro more familiar with lighting spectacular events but inspired by our humble project, did the lighting designs.
And the gorgeous photos by Jules Ober speak for themselves.
*see Ruth Park, JAC 49/2, July 2010, pp.60-62