Artist’s colourful vases bring the message home

Brett Adkins

KNYSNA artist Lucinda Mudge’s colourful and witty ceramics exhibition is far more than a collection of attractive vases – it speaks to South African society.

The White Tiger and Other Stories is being exhibited at Knysna Fine Art and is a first for the artist when it comes to the specific medium.

So, why vases? Mudge said that living in a complicated society, it was at times so overwhelming that people had to turn away from it.

“My vases are treated as canvases – the difference being that they have a round form which quite literally we can turn around to face the wall so that we can only view the decorative beauty on the other side.

“In South Africa we are all quite well practiced in ‘looking the other way’ and this is a theme that I am currently interested in.” Mudge said the vase had its own language and it took her a while to understand it.

“It has a sort of friendliness that is genuinely welcoming. It also looks very at ease in a home.”

Mudge said before the exhibition she had never made a coiled vase but that Trent Read from Knysna Fine Art had suggested she hold such an exhibition.

“I have a strong foundation in the theory of art, and have always painted, but have no real ceramic training and making a 60cm high coiled vase is technically very challenging.”

Mudge said as a result she had technical failures that made her want to weep. “I have taught myself how to do it through trial and error – but have also had to learn to come to terms with loss.

“A single vase can take up to two weeks to build and there is also a lot of planning and emotional energy that goes into each piece. To lose that after a total of five weeks’ work is heartbreaking.” Asked how she went about deciding on a particular design and slogan for each vase, Mudge said these aspects evolved.

“I do not plan out the vases before I begin. However I do have an idea about the theme and I collect images that I find evocative.”

She said the vase: “Everyone has a plan until They Get Punched in the Mouth” took a quote by boxer Mike Tyson and placed it in a South African context where it became quite literal.

She said the exhibition took its title from the book The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga.

“The book is set in India and the parallels one can draw between the Indian and South African social problems are interesting to me.

“For me the book was about the interaction of the worlds of the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.

“In the book an Indian servant murders his master and we, the readers, are rooting for him. I moved back to South Africa in 2010 from the UK and I guess the time away opened my eyes to the financial inequalities of our society in SA.”

Mudge said the exhibition was her observation of “how privileged South African society thinks – focusing on themes of fear, wealth and beauty”.

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