Thumbnail of RIVER RIDERS #3 Thumbnail of Covered Box Thumbnail of Chastity Thumbnail of Europa Thumbnail of Breathing Life Thumbnail of Rooted Rabbit

Ann Roberts

Artist Statement

I threw my first pot in 1958 and forty-two years later, I remember with pleasure that first lump of malleable, oozing clay rising between my fingers. From 1960 to 1974, wheel thrown pottery was my passion. My identity as a Canadian and a potter was made through the wheel. The forms were not always functional and gradually hand building usurped the wheel, however my work continues to be informed by the history of ceramic object making with its attendant technical skills.

As I build my clay sculptures today, one hand works the outside of the coil or slab while the other returns the gesture by swelling the interior spaces. The hollow forms are containers of volume similar to a pot as it opens and rises on a potter's wheel. The similarities between pot and human, art and craft, are self evident to me and I continue to attempt to eliminate the barriers between them without demeaning either. Hand building in clay is solitary and peaceful work that allows the mind to control the most important part of any artwork: its content.

I try to combine the physical form of the sculpture with its content in a manner that can be interpreted on many levels, with layered implications and universal themes. My imagery started as a compilation of my life, everything I had read, seen or experienced became enmeshed in my artwork. Gradually I have universalised the subject matter and diminished the personal. The reworking of old myths generated a series of large scale female figures. I have often used women to portray the interaction of life forces, because I view contemporary women as wishing to be in control of their lives and destiny, yet tied to the deeper forces of nature of which they are a pivotal part. I would like them to be perceived as sensuous and active participants in the game of life.

Gardens, buds, seeds and an interest in the universal images of fertility and spirituality surfaced early in my work. In 1973, strawberries - a female spring fertility symbol - sprouted from the stems of porcelain goblets as an homage to Hieronymous Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights". The Kitchener Court House mural (1977) is a landscape of verdant growth breaking out of a form reminiscent of a rigid mechanical tool. The title, "From Old Bones New Life Begins" is an early acknowledgement of regeneration as a theme in my work. The large "Budded" series (from the late 1970's) were evocations of the fertile earth mother, while the "Embraced" forms (from the early 1990's), with arms and hands drawn onto their surfaces, depict the need humans have to protect or hold onto each other. To me they encapsulate the sense of what it is to experience life as a fertile female.

The theme of survival runs through my work, but is most clearly visible in the "River Riders" series. The displacement of peoples and ethnic brutality was a visible part of growing up in South Africa. This, together with the early sudden death of a parent, intensified my awareness of the intransigence of life. These were powerful and difficult themes that evoked an unsettling quality in my imagery until the regenerative power of rivers and the indomitability of rabbits became an integral part of my ceramic iconography.

Visits to ancient sites, stone circles and recumbent ritual tables have rooted the theme of rebirth and renewal in my work through the 1990's. Most recently, slabs of ice, transporting roots or sprouting seeds, that tumble past our home on the Grand River during the spring ice "break up", have emerged in my work as reminders of the cycle of life. Wondrously and ever present is the knowledge that within each springtime seed, bud, or birth lies the defeat of winter's death.

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Copyright 2002feedbackcredits