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Imbibe: Vessels of Illumination
Pamela Nagley StevensonJuly 15 - September 9, 2017
Imbibe: Vessels of Illumination is a celebratory installation of 108 ceramic drinking vessels, hand-made throughout one year of historical research and studio exploration, and completed with one traditional wood-kiln firing. The numeral 108 is significant in many sacred traditions.
Each cup references archetypes of form and design which exemplify shared aspects of a universal visual language. As contemporary interpretations of sacred iconography, these vessels celebrate global unity, and are not intended to replicate traditional artifacts or ethnic motifs.
Only a sampling of ancient archaeological sites and ceramic cultures are represented, due to limitations of time and the specific parameters of this project. All dates are approximations, using designations of BCE, (Before the Common Era) and CE, (Common Era). Every piece is titled to reference a geographic location, often using an ancient name for an important cultural centre.
Out of 150 cups made for the single wood-firing, the final selection of 108 for this installation was based upon aesthetic intentions, and was not influenced by political agenda or cultural bias.
Designed to interpret cultural archetypes, these vessels illuminate a shared visual language of historical cup forms.
Aesthetic and Technical Considerations
The geographic division of world regions in this installation was initially guided by the 2014 United Nations Geo-Scheme mapping system. Limitations inherent in the nature of this project required a more simplified format. This is achieved through merging various regions into nine areas. Each section is represented by twelve vessels for a total of 108.
Variations of form and design are interpretations of pre-industrial cups, tea bowls, calabashes, goblets, and gourds made of clay. Although many historical traditions utilized hand-built techniques and low temperature clays, all of the vessels in this series are made of porcelain, hand-thrown on the potter’s wheel to a slightly exaggerated scale and thickness, to withstand 1,400 degree C temperatures of wood-kiln firing.
The single liner glaze used inside every cup is a symbol of common denominators shared within diverse ceramic cultures. All exterior surfaces are layered with colours of slip and carved patterns, with additional details from hand made stencils and stamps of linoleum, clay, and gelatin. Complex variations in each surface result from placement in different locations within the wood-kiln during the forty-hour firing. Different atmospheric marks and flashings are created from flame and vapour pathways within the powerful kiln, vividly transforming porcelain surfaces and colours, and invoking ancient qualities of historical resonance in the vessels.
Affirmations of unity among cultures which share rituals of imbibing, libation, and celebration connect these cups, like the thread through a string of prayer beads on a rosary or traditional South Asian mala.
Pamela Nagley Stevenson lives in Winlaw, BC with her 72 cubic foot wood-kiln Bhava Ultraea Noborigama. Pam will be in attendance at the opening reception on Saturday, July 15, from 1-3pm.