Satire of contemporary life in South Africa in ceramic vases

STUDY OF LIFE: Plett ceramic artist Lucinda Mudge with some of her exquisite vases at her home in Keurboomstrand. Picture by: Ewald Stander
STUDY OF LIFE: Plett ceramic artist Lucinda Mudge with some of her exquisite vases at her home in Keurboomstrand. Picture by: Ewald Stander

PLETTENBERG Bay ceramic artist Lucinda Mudge has had a productive year and will not only be opening her fourth solo exhibition next week, but her work will also be showcased internationally.

Mudge has become known not only for creating exquisite ceramic vases, but each collection and each piece speaks to South African society.

And her latest creations are no different. Titled Take What You Want, her latest collection, which will be exhibited at Knysna Fine Art from Thursday, is a satirical study of how society relates to the themes of beauty, wealth and paranoia in a South African context.

“Combining a wide variety of local and global references, including traditional art deco vase patterns, fabric design and pop songs, these vases become a collage of contemporary South African living.

“Textured, colourful mixtures of laugh-it-off-sentiments of anxiety hope to offer a reminder of the delicacy of social relations and the fragility of human existence,” Mudge explained.

The show, which includes 14 vases and five ceramic wall pieces, takes its title from “a disturbing news article” about the murders of farmer’s wife Lorraine Karg, their domestic worker Hilda Linyane, and gardener Zakeue Mhlongo on Sherwood farm in KwaZulu-Natal in 2010.

She referred specifically to Mhlongo’s plea to his murderers to “take what you want and leave us alone”.

“In South Africa, we are aware we are living in a dangerous and volatile place. I am interested in the physiological impact that is the direct effect of being so acutely aware of this.

“The murders mentioned are everyone’s nightmare. It is so real we cannot ignore it, yet we choose not to take it on, to look the other way . . . to take what we want.”

After exhibiting her work locally, her collection will also be on show in April next year at one of South Africa’s leading contemporary galleries, Circa on Jellicoe in Johannesburg.

“This is an exciting opportunity. I have never shown in Jozi before and I am looking forward to the audience.”

Two of her vases were also selected for the exhibition, Making Afrika, at the Vitra Design Museum in Basel, Germany, and will travel to the Guggenheim Bilbao in Spain within the next few weeks.

The exhibition is accompanied by a 352-page publication, which offers a first-ever comprehensive overview of African contemporary design.

One of the vases that had been selected is titled Doors Locked. Alarm on. Beams on. Phone near bed. Ok, goodnight.

“This vase was made in the still of the night, listening to the ticking of my wall clock.”

Although Mudge, who was born in Knysna and now lives in Keurboomstrand outside Plettenberg Bay, studied fine art at the University of Cape Town, she never had formal training in ceramics.

“I taught myself through evening classes [while living] in Brixton in London, and bought my first kiln four years ago.

“From there it has been an upwards struggle against the medium. I have technical difficulties that make me want to weep. I have learned through trial and error.”

-Yolande Stander

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