His Own Steam: A Barry Brickell Survey
04 May – 11 Aug 2013
"I was truly amazed and felt hugely stimulated seeing his works." —Visitor comment
A tribute to one of New Zealand's most important potters, Barry Brickell.
His Own Steam is the first significant survey exhibition of Brickell's work, featuring over 100 pots and several ceramic murals. The works are drawn from both the sizable holdings of The Dowse Art Museum and Brickell’s own collection, together with key pieces generously loaned from museums and collectors throughout New Zealand.
For Brickell, life and art are intrinsically linked and both are concerned with the shaping and engineering of energy and forms. His Own Steam reveals the passions that fuel him, notably his staunch enthusiasm for both trains and environmental restoration. The Driving Creek Potteries and Railway, Brickell's Coromandel home and base since the 1970s, is a unique and beloved tourist attraction, and bears testament to his fierce commitment to, as the Driving Creek tagline says: ‘art, engineering and conservation’.
From his early days as a potter in the 1950s, Brickell trusted his own original wit and invention. Using coarse local clays and hybrid natural and cultural forms, he developed a unique sensibility which resonates with this part of the Pacific. The sculptural forms he produces pulse with a humour and sexuality rare in New Zealand craft or art. His most well-known forms are the 'Spiromorphs', large-scale spiral creations built from coiled clay. The Spiromorphs twist and unfold in expansive curves and visceral ridges, drawing on the relentless energies and ways of nature. His work resonates with his often quoted mantra—‘not the thing but how’—demonstrating his unique philosophical interest in the process of making and the distinctiveness of individual, local voice.
His Own Steam includes a number of major Spiromorphs, alongside large-scale ceramic murals shown in public for the first time, and a myriad of other Brickell forms and characters, from 'Fatsos' to 'Thinsos'. In addition, the exhibition showcases Brickell’s early development as a potter, from his very first pots to significant works made in collaboration with art critic Hamish Keith, during their time as flatmates in the 1950s.
The exhibition is curated by Dowse Art Museum Senior Curator, Emma Bugden and Sociologist and writer, David Craig, in close partnership with Barry Brickell.
The associated book, AUP's His Own Steam: The Work of Barry Brickell was a finalist in the 2013 NZ Post Book Awards. Read Emma's blogs about making a book on Barry and our press release about the announcement.
Read Jay Hutchinson's
account of his road
trip to collect the