OvumCOLBORNE – The members of Colborne Art Gallery are about to open its annual themed show entitled Vessels — in both their definitions, as ships or large boats and as hollow containers.

Months ahead of time, member artists deliberate on a list of possible themes and then vote from a short list of favourites each year. The theme that develops from this process then stretches us beyond a place of comfort where we might normally stay in our work. A willingness to take risks is an attribute that most contemporary artists share though, and we do step up!

Ovum is Colborne Art Gallery member artist Judith Kreps Hawkins contribution to the show whose theme is Vessels — bird and fish bones with a glass goblet. The show opens with a Jan. 25 reception, and continues through March 2.

Ceramic artists call all clay pots vessels and functional potters can devote whole careers to developing nuanced forms of exquisite beauty, as gallery members Terrie MacDonald and Susan McDonald have done.

All of the show's artists will be responding in a variety of materials and interpretations to the theme. Four members have commented on interactions with the theme Vessels.

"I find it a challenge to balance the conventional idea of a vessel, e.g. a conveyor of liquids, or a ship, with a more abstract notion, e.g. the mind carrying an idea and expressing it," says Judith Kreps Hawkins.

"That being said, I find my own work suggesting double, difficult entendres, putting one type of vessel within another one to suggest yet another, as in Ovum or the play on the many meanings of vessel portrayed in an oblique, fractured way, as in Biograph."

“I've chosen to focus on the vessel as watercraft, using the iconic image of a canoe as a means to navigate over the water's surface as well as through imagination,” says Barbara Buntin.

“The shape of the canoe is a simple, beautiful container and provides a means to skim along the water and travel to remote and peaceful corners.”

Member Pat Stanley interpreted vessels as containers and also ships.

“I am currently working on a series of paintings that depict various colourful nebulae in the sky, combined with very earth-bound images of expressways, cars, trucks, etc. The vehicles are containers — of our bodies, our belongings, our merchandise, all of our gravity-shackled finite lives," she states.

"These vessels in the paintings are monochromatic and surrounded by grey concrete — roads, overpasses, parking lots. Everything is anchored to the ground. Yet in the sky are stars, asteroids, nebulae, the stuff of dreams and of infinity," she said.

"The nebulae not only fill the sky, they crawl into and through our vessels. And in the latest paintings, maps like navigation aids can be seen in the background. Are they maps of highways, of circuit boards, or of the stars? If we look up from the ground for a moment, can we use them to sail away into space?"

Rod Bergeron viewed the theme differently.

“I suppose that vessels can be a container. I'm going to approach the gallery as the container. I have a large group of fish, I believe there are six, that combined are a large piece of assemblage I would like to suspend from the ceiling," he states.

"I’ve heard of Biblical reference to bodies as vessels of the Holy Spirit, with God as the potter and us as the clay. There are numerous mind-bending possibilities."

Kreps Hawkins probably represents the group when she says, “while working with a theme in mind, it often leads me into unexplored territory as I automatically research the word and its origins, past and present, and make fascinating connections. Themes are a delightful invitation for us to take artistic licence.”

Vessels opens at the Colborne Art Gallery, 51 King St., Colborne, on Jan. 25 with artists present at a reception from 2 to 4 p.m. The show continues through March 2.

Admission is always free, and all are always welcome. Hours are noon to 4 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays.

— Annie McDonald, Colborne Art Gallery member