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Alwyn O'Brien
at James Harris Gallery, Seattle, Washington
Recommendation by Andrew Bartels


Alwyn O'Brien, ''The Last Harlequin,'' 2012, porcelain and glaze, 17 x 11 x 7 7/8''.

 

Continuing through April 28, 2012

 

In contrast to the slew of ceramic shows in Seattle during the National Council of Education for the Ceramics Arts (NCECA) conference, which were predominantly craft-focused, monumental or overly refined, Canadian artist Alwyn O’Brien’s porcelain “vessels” are refreshing, intimate and complex. The delicate matrices of hand-rolled coils in porcelain and manganese clay provoke an array of associations: decorated vessels, bird cages or nests, floral bouquets and the figure in a porous and vulnerable form. 

 

The extravagant and indulgent shapes absorb Baroque ornamentation into their very structure, and have an undeniable movement to them: upward, outward and down, like flowers that are blooming and wilting. The sense of growth and decay is rooted in O’Brien’s volunteer work in nursing homes, and attendant themes of fleeting memory and the fragility of the body combined with a youthful whimsy give the show an elegiac overtone. “The Last Harlequin” with its bright yellow glaze concludes the “Essay in Objects” with dignified frivolity.


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