author: danielle corson | a & c writer
A review of the methods used by this Saskatchewan artist
Jay Kimball’s solo exhibition, Sentient Ground was on display from May 11th through June 25th, 2017 at Last Mountain Lake Cultural Centre in Regina Beach, Saskatchewan. Within this exhibit, there were seven works, six of which are ceramic sculptures and vessels and one is an installation. Kimball holds a BA from the University of Regina and resides in Saskatchewan. Currently, Kimball is a visiting artist at the University of Regina for the summer.
Kimball has sustainably gathered small soil and sediment samples from four culturally and environmentally significant sites within Saskatchewan: Elbow Meteorite Crater, Meteorite Crater near Rockglen, Mystery Rocks, and Little Manitou Lake. Relying on several years of experience and education, he intuitively creates glazes from these samples to produce unique, locally sourced surface decoration on each piece. The artworks are fired to cone 6 in an electric kiln. This uncomplicated and standard firing method contrasts with the unpredictable and experimental surface treatments of the ceramic works.
The exhibition is arranged so that works that share soil from each specific geographical location are grouped together. For example, Meteor and Meteorite Crater are positioned in the left corner of the exhibition space and across the gallery Mystery Rocks-Mystery Vessels and Mystery Rocks are positioned adjacent to one another.
Light Pillar, a porcelain mobile installation, commands the space as one enters the gallery. This kinetic sculpture delivers an evident presence within the gallery when viewers disrupt the calm air with their movements causing it to dance and sway. Although there were technical difficulties with the projection of images of the local landscapes onto the raw porcelain slabs in Light Pillar, one can imagine how the landscapes would ephemerally decorate the surfaces. The bare porcelain acts as a canvas. These brief, temporary images can resemble the vastly changing environments within the Saskatchewan landscape and act as an homage to the earth where the material is from.
Using the word pillar in the title of the artwork signifies concepts of strength, support, standing alone, and the idea of being monumental. These concepts can be applied to the cultural and environmental locations Kimball has chosen to include within this exhibition and suggests the importance of the Canadian landscape within our community, culture, and psyche.
Kimball does not directly imitate the visual landscapes of Saskatchewan, as Canadian ceramics have shown in the past. The use of Canadian landscape imagery is common to much of Canadian ceramics. He directly references the land through surface, form, and material. Paul Mathieu states “historically, the surface of an object, its ornamentation, play[s] a powerful, symbolic role”. Clay is from the earth, and these objects are glazed with material containing pieces of Saskatchewan. In addition, Kimball’s forms are reflections of the Saskatchewan geological features found at each respective location. For example, in Mystery Rocks-Mystery Vessels, the porcelain bowls are situated on the floor on top of photographs of rocks. The form of each bowl, in relation to its foot, links back to the mystery rocks depicted in the photographs. As a viewer looks down upon these objects, deep shadows can be seen as they are cast from the raised foot. As a result, the bowls seem to be floating on top of the photographs producing a successful mysterious display.
Each vessel contains pieces of the local earth and have natural, earthy color tones. Kimball explains “I attempt to create artworks that provoke a visceral experience.” Herbert Read suggests that “a national ethos must find expression in this [ceramics] medium”. Canada’s ethos, as explained by Susan Surette, is “bound up with a sense of itself as a vast terrain”. Although this exhibition is focused on Saskatchewan geographical locations, the artist is determined to add locations each time the show is installed; thus, there is the potential for the exhibition to expand to all aspects of the Canadian landscape.