Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Swans, figurines, vases... exhibition in Whangarei and a talk on 16th March

The Whangarei Art Gallery has an exceptional exhibition of Crown Lynn treasures, some mine, but mostly belonging to another big collector.

Heather and I are doing a talk about our collections and about Crown Lynn in general at 2 pm on Sunday 16 March - and afternoon tea will be served on Crown Lynn!  This is a fundraiser for the Whangarei Music Society so there will be a $15 door charge, on that afternoon only. The rest of the time the art gallery appreciates a small donation from visitors.

The Whangarei art gallery is open daily from 10 am to 4 pm. It is at the bottom end of Dent St, in the Town Basin, and it is well signposted. The exhibition runs until April 20. It is curated by Scott Pothan.

There is a huge parade of swans, including rare trickle glaze examples, and also a big family of animal figurines. Not to mention the whiteware vases! Just look at this lovely wee dog saying hello to the equally lovely - and rare - cat.  The dog is probably 1940s, the cat 1950s.
These two early swans are among my favourites.
 The small one has interesting scalloped tops to its feathers - quite different from the later version (see pic below) which is smoother around the top.  When Crown Lynn first began making swans, they were very limited in the way they decorated them. Through the 1940s, the trickle glaze (flowing glaze) technique was developed and refined until they were producing some stunning decorations. Later, from 1948, they used the white glaze which is more commonly associated with the classic Crown Lynn swan. This little white swan below, unlike most others, has a yellow beak and eyes outlined in black.

This grey swan is another very interesting example - probably my favourite at the entire exhibition. It is finished in a thinner dark grey glaze - compare with the more usual - but still rare - black swan in the background. The grey looks like a 1980s glaze but we can't be sure.
I could go on and on and on about the swans.. there are plenty more to be seen at the exhibition - but I am delighted by the animal figurines on display as well. A gorgeous line-up of bambi deer in different colours. These are also 1950s I think - or even early 1960s.  By this time Crown Lynn had become much more skilled in both modelling and glazing and these are real quality items. And quite large at about 15 cm.
Then there's an extensive array of dogs and other animals, all carefully arranged and looking just great. There is even a camel, and a goat - both very rare.
Here is a group of carnivores, all so sleek and predatory. There is no doubt that there were some very skilled modellers working at Crown Lynn. These animals aren't mine - and therein lies a sob story. I once saw a black fox on a shop counter in Waipu, inexpensive too. And I went ummm not sure, that can't be Crown Lynn. And left it there. Oh well. Someone else would have been thrilled to find it.
Another of my favourites is this very early dog. This would have been made when the little team at Ambrico were very much just feeling their way, trying to work out how to make the clay body (which is a mix of several different types of clay and other minerals), how to model the clay and how to glaze it successfully. Not to mention how to fire it. But there are quite a few of these wee dogs still around so they must have been popular. Despite its primitive form it has real life and energy. 
This bird ashtray is another early example. I have never seen another.
As I said, I could go on and on. Just look a this brilliant lineup of kiwi vases, again all trickle glazed, 1940s.
And the vases.  In the foreground is a very early kitchen bowl, also trickle glazed. At this exhibition, these items are all beautifully displayed and lit. It is a real treat to be able to closely examine the stunning colour combinations.
And there's a section of whiteware vases... what can I say?  (They are a brighter white than I show in this photo, which was taken in low light.)
This really is an exceptional exhibition, and I do recommend that you come and see it if possible. I don't imagine it will be seen anywhere else in NZ - so come to Whangarei and give yourself a treat!   And as a bonus, the gallery is also showing (for the first time in NZ ) a selection of Len Lye paintings from the 1930s and also some exceptional artwork by Graham Percy, who did a lot of work for the School Journals. 
I hope you can make it for the talk and afternoon tea on the 16th of March - do remember that there is a $15 cover charge for that event only.  The rest of the time the art gallery appreciates a small donation on entry.  The exhibition runs until Easter - it closes on April 20.
That's all for now. My next little project is to dig out some cups and saucers to serve the afternoon tea on! I have a few...
More soon

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