Susan Collett: New Works from the Permanent Collection

October 28, 2012 to March 17, 2013

Susan Collett is an energetic visionary and accomplished ceramicist and printmaker. While the two practices might seem disparate, Collett synergizes the two into an oeuvre where they support and inspire each other. By doing so, her works in both media are singularly original and distinct.

Collett’s fine craft practice is diverse and richly multi-fold. While her past work was elegant and functional, sometimes whimsical and challenging, the ability to incorporate duality within an object remains a trademark aspect of her practice. For example, when Collett won the first Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramics in 2001, she used the money to partake in a three month residency at Sangbao in Jingdezhen, China – the centre for porcelain production. Here she was able to concentrate on developing a new body of work. The Moiré series utilized delicate layers of earthenware paper clay, referencing the multi-tiered tea farms, layered tile rooftops and willowing bamboo forests that make up the unique Chinese landscape. The resulting works look to be incredibly fragile, appearing almost as lace or sugar confections about to collapse upon themselves. However, in reality they are strong, weighty and durable.

In Collett’s newer series, Maze and Labyrinth, the very notion of tension is set to ‘high alert.’ In Labyrinth, there is a further increase in scale as well as a sense of stressing the physical potential of the material – undulation and visual balance through seemingly structural imbalance – almost to the point of collapse. While this tension between fragility and strength creates visual drama, there is also the oscillation between lightness and weight because of the many perforations throughout the body.  In fact, like a work of glass, a work from the Labyrinth series is ultimately activated by light – light passing through the innumerable perforations throughout and patterning opposite walls and onto any surface on which the piece stands. Meanwhile, Collett describes her more intimately scales Maze series as, “an investigation into themes of chaos and beauty: the strength required for negotiating the paths between interior and exterior worlds.

Susan Collett graduated from the Lacoste School of Art (France) and the Cleveland Institute of Art. In 2001, she was awarded the first Winifred Shantz Award for Ceramics; in 2002 she received the 2nd Place Prize in the Great Canadian Printmaking Competition; and in 2008, she was elected to the International Academy of Ceramics. Her works have been exhibited internationally and are in numerous important collections including the Bata Shoe Museum, Burlington Art Centre, The Crown Collection of the Official Residencies of Canada (Rideau Hall), Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art, Queen Elizabeth Hotel (Montreal), Tom Thomson Memoral Art Gallery, Trump Tower (Miami), and the World Ceramic Centre (Korea).

Christian Bernard Singer, Curator