by Wes Lafortune Untitled but not unknown
From Winnipeg to Calgary - In the Mud highlights the art world’s underdogs In the Mud – From Winnipeg to Calgary
Runs until September 7
Untitled Art Society Lovers of ceramic art unite. There is a rare exhibition of ceramic works on display in Calgary, from a group of artists who are emerging from their studios to show off what they believe is an under-appreciated medium of art.
"There is no ceramicists’ showing in Calgary," says Dawn Saunders Dahl, gallery coordinator for the Untitled Art Society (UAS).
As a result, the UAS is taking advantage of this absence, highlighting some under-appreciated artists and, in doing so, raising their profile in the art community.
Founded in 1993 by a group of graduating students from the Alberta College of Art and Design, the society now has a membership of nearly 100. Despite an obscure location in the 300 block of 10th Avenue S.W. – necessitated by Calgary’s high rents – UAS remains undeterred and hopes that they can raise their profile in Calgary’s arts community.
To achieve that goal, UAS might want to consider changing its name. At present, it could just as easily be called the Unknown Art Society. This band of determined artists toil away in their studios/gallery inside of a building that during "off hours" you must access by the back entrance on a loading dock that’s next to a fish restaurant. Once you make it inside the building, you have the choice of hiking four flights of stairs – where the society is located – or jumping aboard a freight elevator.
To heighten their profile, the UAS is getting a jump start on the 2003 fall art season by hosting a group show titled In The Mud — From Winnipeg to Calgary.
This is the fourth incarnation of In The Mud for UAS, and curator Garnet McCulloch uses the contacts he made working as a technician at the University of Winnipeg and the Alberta College of Art and Design to make the Manitoba/Alberta connection.
The exhibition is divided into three sections: carved works, sculptural and hand-thrown. Although the majority of the works were not available to preview prior to press time, if two hand-thrown pieces by Andrew Tarrant are indicative of the quality of art represented in the rest of the exhibition, it’s well worth checking out.
Born in England, Tarrant grew up in Calgary and graduated from ACAD in 1990. Since that time, he has pursued his passion for ceramics when possible.
"I’ve been working as a potter on and off for the past 10 years – mainly off," he says.
The "mainly off" comment refers to the periods when Tarrant has been forced to take jobs outside of art to survive.
"It’s problematic to make a living as an artist," he says. "I’ve had to work in warehouses – the usual guy thing to do with an arts degree. I worked there with two sculptors and a dancer. We had our own little arts society down there."
If working in a heating and plumbing warehouse – albeit a culturally enriched warehouse – compromised Tarrant’s artistic ability, it doesn’t show. His vessels, titled Dragon Bowl and Shapes of My Heart, are exquisite examples of sprigging – a technique that involves applying decorative elements to the bowl. In these cases, those other elements are pieces of clay that have been made from moulds.
Tarrant recently had a similar piece accepted into the 53rd International Competition of Contemporary Ceramic Art held in Faenza, Italy at the International Ceramics Museum. An international jury selects the pieces included in the Faenza competition, which is regarded as the most prestigious ceramics event of its kind in the world. Not bad for a guy who belongs to a society that is "untitled."
If you have the time and resources to make the trip to Italy, you have until December 31 to see the object entered by a talented Calgary artist. Alternately, you could save time and air fare by making your way to the Untitled Art Society gallery and discovering a space, and a group of artists, that should no longer be untitled or unknown.