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A Toast to Mirek Smíšek (1925–2013)

Author: Sian Van Dyk, Curator, Programmes
Fondly remembering Mirek Smišek

I first met Mirek after his exhibition 60 Years, 60 Pots, opened at Mahara Gallery in Waikanae in 2009, when my colleagues and I were lucky enough to get a private tour of his exhibition.  Jovially, proudly, but humbly, he took us around the intimate and carefully arranged space. Piece by piece he told us stories about his life, laid out and shared like the ceramics in his show.

Mirek Smisek, Casserole Pot and Lid, date unknown. Collection of The Dowse Art Museum. Gift of Barbara Hercus. Image John Lake

Mirek Smisek, Casserole Pot and Lid, date unknown. Collection of The Dowse Art Museum. Gift of Barbara Hercus. Image John Lake

Inadvertently, that day Mirek helped me to really understand an idea which I soon learnt was part of a wider perspective on ceramics. This well-respected, senior artist whose work was in the collections of the most esteemed institutions around the country, still relished the public coming to visit him on those Kapiti Coast Arts Trail days, where he sold his work at an accessible price, because he wanted his art to be used.  For him, the essence of what he did, what made it beautiful and gave it life, was that it was a unique handmade thing of beauty which could be enjoyed by anyone. In a way a part of it was lost if it merely sat on the shelf like a trophy.

So as we remember Mirek Smíšek and his remarkable contribution to New Zealand ceramics, I ask you to seek out any of your own handmade treasures, or if you are lucky enough, your own Smíšek, picked up on that Sunday afternoon jaunt to the Kapiti Coast, and raise your drinks to a life lived fully and in appreciation of the beauty found in the simple things in life.

Mirek Smisek, Fluted Bowl, late 1980s Collection of The Dowse Art Museum. Image Jeff McEwan, Capture Studios

Mirek Smisek, Fluted Bowl, late 1980s Collection of The Dowse Art Museum. Image Jeff McEwan, Capture Studios

You can see some of his work, including several pieces from The Dowse collection, in the exhibition Mirek Smisek: 60 Years, 60 Pots, currently on at the New Zealand Academy of Fine Arts.

Sian van Dyk, Curator, Programmes and Events

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