This month MTG Hawke’s Bay opened an installation by Janna van Hasselt. Hailing from Christchurch, van Hasselt is a sculptor who works solely with ceramic mediums.
With archaeologists uncovering human-made ceramics that date back to at least 24,000 BC it is said that clay artists access deeply primal histories and geographies. “In working in clay, one communes with other works that have been fabricated and exist over hundreds and thousands of years,” says contemporary ceramicist Bruce M. Sherman.
Despite being one of the oldest mediums of self-expression, ceramics have been largely ignored in contemporary art, up until that is, the last decade.
These days you often see ceramic elements in contemporary works of art and there is perhaps a sense you can make anything out of clay. There is also the more philosophical idea that the many histories associated with the material allow you to engage equally with the past, present and future.
Last year after seeing her work at the Dowse Art Museum in Lower Hutt, MTG invited van Hasselt to make an installation at MTG and we were thrilled to see the project come to fruition in the museum’s foyer this May.
In Chromacade, rainbow coloured strokes are suspended on a field of luminous green. The strokes are made of pastel tinted porcelain, each one individually hung against sign writer’s fluorescent green.
Exploring the relationship between these ceramic pieces and the velvety fluorescent surface, van Hasselt delights in the buzz created at the edges of the extrusions. In her installation, colour and pattern give the impression that the art work is somehow animated as the colours vibrate against one another.
Playfully, the sculptural elements fall in and out of a herringbone pattern, descending into chaos before conforming again to order. This narrative plays out across the wall space, suggesting a lively drama where the strokes are the players, sometimes behaving, sometimes not. With spontaneity and humour, Chromacade considers just how far something can go before it is wrangled back into line.
In a time when wellbeing is at the forefront of many of our minds, van Hasselt offers an art experience that is a joyful, visual release by way of an art work - demonstrating how art can bring joy, happiness and impact positively on our health.
Van Hasselt has a BFA from Ilam School of Fine Arts in Christchurch and studied at the Art Institute of Chicago as the recipient of a Fulbright Award.
She has also undertaken residencies in London, The Netherlands, Belgium and Pennsylvania and exhibited throughout New Zealand, most notably in Christchurch’s SCAPE Biennale in 2016. A finalist in the Portage Ceramic Awards in Auckland, van Hasselt has also had solo exhibitions at The Dowse Art Museum and Ashburton Art Gallery.
Chromacade is on at MTG Hawke’s Bay until 8 October 2023.
Published in the Hawke's Bay Today newspaper 20 May 2023 and written by Toni MacKinnon, Curator Fine Arts at MTG Hawke's Bay.
Image: Chromacade, 2023. By Janna van Hasselt
22 May 2023
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