Gil McElroy
Vessels at the Colborne Art Gallery
January 28, 2014

I like things. Stuff. Matter. So I naturally hearken toward the sculptural, which, in my world, absolutely includes clay. That inevitably leads to the form that continues to dominate ceramic discourse: the vessel. However, the vessel is by no means something with which only ceramists concern themselves, and that's what took me over to the Colborne Art Gallery to have a gander at their new group exhibition entitled – what else – Vessels.

Judith Kreps Hawkins, Ovum

I was drawn right away to the ceramic/sculptural stuff here like Susan McDonald's Naked Vessels, a trio of small unfired vases made functionally unemployable courtesy their literally cheeky bottoms, softly rounded and subtly cleft by, well, butt cracks. Or Terrie McDonald's On the Ganges and Varanasi, two oblong, broadly shallow earthenware bowls with a resemblance to small boats, the interiors of which are brightly glazed and simply decorated with images of flowers, the exterior "hulls" roughly scored, darkly coloured, and visually unadorned.

But enough about clay. Barbara Buntin's wee, delicate boat For Kathy, constructed of small twigs and woven papier-mâché, cradles an equally delicate just-blooming flower on its aesthetic voyage. Looking at it, I can't help but recall ceramist Matthias Ostermann's series of funerary clay boats he made just before his death.

Okay, seriously, I mean it this time. No more clay. How about bones and glass instead? Judith Kreps Hawkins' Ovum makes for an interesting take on assemblage with a small glass goblet encased – gripped? – by a delicate skeletal framework of fish and bird bones that is disturbingly predatory.

Bill Horbostel, Boat Hulls

That's a few of the things, here. I'll end, though, with an image: Bill Horbostel's Boat Hulls, a work at first glance I thought was a small painting but turned out to be a photograph. Horizontal striations of intense colour held down by a border of decaying bits of red (which turns out to be a close-up shot of the titular hulls) that renders the image decidedly abstract. You have to really work for the representational, which is just fine by me.

Colborne Art Gallery:
Vessels continues until March 2.

Gil McElroy is a poet, artist, independent curator, and freelance art critic. He is the author of Gravity & Grace: Selected Writing on Contemporary Canadian Art, four books of poetry, and Cold Comfort: Growing Up Cold War. McElroy lives in Colborne, Ontario with his wife Heather. He is Akimblog's roving Ontario correspondent and can be followed @GilMcElroy on Twitter.