Men can't resist clay in art

By Laurel Stowell

The Men of Clay in the latest Rayner Brothers' exhibition fall into two camps - those who want to control and dominate the lumpen material and those who enjoy a happy accident.
The exhibition is the work of eight males who make objects out of clay - that most everyday of materials.
But one of the exhibitors, Paul Rayner, said clay had proved irresistible to artists as famous as Picasso, Miro and Gauguin, who could not resist the opportunity to paint on a three-dimensional form.
"It's the same now. There has been and always will be a ceramic underground."
In the Men of Clay show he singled out Matt Couper, Paul Maseyk and John Roy as people who were attracted by the painterly possibilities of clay.
They also tended to be the perfectionists in the show, along with Rick Rudd and Richard Stratton.
"They like to really dominate the medium. They don't let it take over. They keep a firm grasp on its final appearance."
In the other camp are Rayner and Ross Mitchell-Anyon.
"We like the accident. We like things to surprise us when we open the kiln door."
Five of the ceramic artists in the show are based in Wanganui. The others are Richard Stratton from Wellington, former Tylee Cottage artist-in-residence John Roy from Tauranga and former Wanganui man Matt Couper in Las Vegas.
The forms and glazes in Stratton's work recall 19th century English porcelain such as Spode or Staffordshire. But the messages conveyed are distinctly modern and political or personal. One of the works pictured is titled The Charles Taylor Affair - referencing the Liberian president tried for war crimes.
Rudd's works are quake-proof teapots, made for an auction to benefit victims of the Christchurch earthquakes.

They are in the Canterbury colours and have rounded bases, allowing them to rock and roll when the ground moves.
Rayner's works are large handbuilt ceramic birds, with lids. He's done a kakapo and tui and there are a kiwi, a morepork and an albatross to come. "I was inspired by a 19th century potting family called the Martin brothers. One of them made huge birds with lidded heads. They came to be known as Wally birds and they're very very collectible now."
Rayner was born in England, went to art school and worked at Wanganui's Sarjeant Gallery on and off for years - most recently leaving after eight years in December 2005. His brother Mark came to Wanganui about 10 years ago and did an evening class in ceramics in the early 2000s - which got Paul interested.
They opened their gallery in Guyton St four years ago this week. It has now outlasted several others.
Paul Rayner shows work at Bowen Galleries in Wellington and this year at Objectspace and Masterworks in Auckland as well.
While working full-time in Wanganui he did some painting, mainly landscapes. This year he's gone back to something he hasn't done since art school. After many years of finding it too hard he's been painting in oils one evening a week. "I'm really enjoying it, but I don't know how long it will be before I inflict it on the world," he said.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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