Ann Verdcourt is one of New Zealand's most innovative and dedicated ceramic artists. This exhibition at Objectspace considers three decades of Verdcourt's career through her still life works, an enduring theme from which she continues to draw lively inspiration.
Born in 1934 in Luton, England, Verdcourt's earliest memories of sculpting are during World War 2, where the family's nights were spent in an air raid shelter in the back garden. It was there that Verdcourt began sculpting with the wax that came from the candles used for lighting. From wax she created families of figures, and domestic life inside the house inspired her to create her own still life arrangements from plates, mugs and bowls. This early fascination with groups and sight lines has resonated throughout Verdcourt's career.
Her father's art books were also a constant source of fascination and provided an early education in the wonders of the ability of art to unlock worlds of dimensional possibilities. It was this desire to create things in three dimensions that led her to the world of clay at Hornsey Art School, where as Verdcourt says she first "met clay and I loved it".
Living in Britain and having access to art museums such as London's Victoria and Albert Museum exposed the young Verdcourt to a broad range of works and many artists with whom she has had an ongoing ‘conversation' with in her work. Most notable is the work of Giorgio Morandi, who has been an enduring reference in her practice. Early on Verdcourt literally translated Morandi's paintings into a three dimensional world. As can be seen in this exhibition, Verdcourt has continued that conversation into her own realm, creating still life works that are composed of objects from the domestic sphere - milk cartons, bleach bottles, bowls and jugs sit together in groupings that are about the architecture of the everyday, of light, of touch.
Verdcourt moved to New Zealand with her husband, ceramic artist John Lawrence, and two children in 1965. Initially ceramics that came from the household were largely made to satisfy the then buoyant market for domestic ceramics. It wasn't until the 1980s that Verdcourt's work began to attract interest from public galleries.
This exhibition Ann Verdcourt: Still Lives 1980 - 2007 is selected from Ceramics: ANN VERDCOURT a survey and partnership between Te Manawa Museums Trust and the Sarjeant Gallery and co-curated by Nicola Jennings and Greg Donson and toured by Te Manawa Museums Trust, Palmerston North.
Ann Verdcourt: Still Lives 1980 - 2007 has been timed by Objectspace to coincide with The Portage Ceramic Awards at Lopdell House Gallery, New Zealand's premiere ceramic awards, and is part of the REAL New Zealand Festival and Art Week Auckland.
Exhibition jointly developed by Te Manawa Museums Trust, Palmerston North, and the Sarjeant Gallery, Whanganui. Exhibition toured by Te Manawa Museums Trust, Palmerston North.
Ann Verdcourt in conversation with exhibition curator Greg Donson, Saturday 8 October, 11am.
Moyra Elliott, award winning ceramics curator and author, will discuss Ann Verdcourt's practice in local and international contexts, Saturday 29 October, 11am.