Fantastic sculptures by Andrea Vuletin and Darlene Pratt at Carnegie Gallery


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Jul 10, 2023

Fantastic sculptures by Andrea Vuletin and Darlene Pratt at Carnegie Gallery

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Their friendship is built on clay. It has lasted more than 25 years. Until now, however, Andrea Vuletin and Darlene Pratt have not shown their work together.

"Inside Out," an exhibition at the Carnegie Gallery, showcases their ceramic sculptures, creations that push the ordinary into the wonderfully fantastic. In making new work for this exhibition they kept in touch.

"But we did not see the full collection of each other's pieces until the day we set up the exhibition," Pratt tells me.

Both have made functional pottery on the wheel. For this exhibition, though, both have hand-built complex, space-taking sculptures, mostly with stoneware clay.

"I am endlessly fascinated by the natural world and particularly inspired by sea creatures, succulents, fossils, and fractals," Pratt says. "I explore the concepts of progeny and evolution. Each piece is part of a lineage."

Pratt calls "Primordial" the "mother" of all her pieces, since it incorporates all the "fundamental shapes, stoneware clays, textures, and colours of the entire collection."

Sea-creaturish feet support a circular base. Embedded in the base are two concentric rows of leaves whose surfaces resemble crocodile skin. A tall glass cylinder, or column, rises from the base. It's filled with water. Four aquatic forms float in the water and one, sprouting squiggly antennae, sits on top.

"The piece escaping from the top of the glass column is a nod to evolution and the transition to land-based creatures," she explains.

The idea for this piece began when a friend shared an AI-generated image of some carnivorous plants, Pratt says.

"Rather than make sketches, I tend to play with other pieces I have sitting around my studio, stacking them on top of one another, taking photographs on my phone and staring at them over the course of days or weeks to further develop the final concept. I was intrigued by the idea of suspending some of my smaller pieces in water and taking advantage of how water magnifies the surfaces of the pieces. They take on an otherworldly feeling.

"I believe the piece pushes the boundaries of what ceramic art can be."

In "Rafflesia," a sculpture derived from the world's largest flower, the wide circular bloom balances precariously on three pointed feet. Chunky three-lobed petals boast highly textured surfaces decorated with closely linked sinuous lines and pebble and scale patterns. At the very centre lies a red bowl lined with spikes.

Pratt makes cardboard moulds to create some of her forms. The textures come from a variety of improvised tools.

"I use a series of rollers and stamps, some made by me using clay or PVC pipe and hot glue, and others that are found objects with patterns I find intriguing."

Vuletin, like Pratt, has made functional vessels. She's well known for her white vases, mugs, and bowls decorated with elegant botanical motifs.

"I have happily made botanically inspired functional pots for many years but I have had a constant desire to stretch creatively beyond that tried and true brand. I love the botanical work but also need new challenges."

The pandemic, she tells me, provided the opportunity for change. Making the new work was therapeutic.

"Forms, colour and texture express erupting emotions. Hand-building methods of coiling, pinching and stretching the clay serve as a sort of physical emotional therapy," she says.

The new work is sturdy and richly coloured. One example is "Fever," so called, Vuletin explains, for the "high temperatures of emotions, of potential disease, and of hysteria."

In this piece, she assembles a variety of pointed pods, some ellipsoid, some flattened like almonds, and some resembling large hazelnuts. Built using textured slabs and moulds, they are joined into three clusters that can be rearranged.

"Company" can be seen in three ways: two vases holding white branches and pods, a pair of heavy boots, and a head-and-shoulders bust split down the middle. The bust is two-faced, with a smiley face on one front and a robot face on the other.

Andrea Vuletin and Darlene Pratt

What: Inside Out

Where: Carnegie Gallery, 10 King St. W., Dundas

When: until May 28

Phone: 905-627-4265

Artists’ tour: Sunday, May 28, 1 to 2 p.m.

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Andrea Vuletin and Darlene Pratt