Key Points:

Janet Green's works are quiet. They invite the viewer to slow up, to contemplate the shapes and surfaces, to breathe.

Grouped on plinths at Objectspace, the heads, begging bowls, skull cups, shells, bees and Green's variants of Buddhist domed stupas demand nothing but time.

Time is what they have taken. Not just the year to assemble the show - the hours of pinching coils of clay required to build up the shapes, the triple firing and the experimenting to develop the right glaze - but the dozen years Green mulled over what she saw at Borobudur, the 8th-century Javanese temple that inspired the work.

That trip in 1993, just after she finished working on a New Zealand aid project with potters at another Indonesian island, Lombok, inspired her to study and collect examples of Buddhist forms.

Green says she wanted to reflect on the qualities of attentiveness and introspection associated with the forms, and add her contribution to a centuries-old practice.

Even when she started the series, building a pair of heads, she wasn't sure where it would go.

As the works were finished, they sat in her Masterton studio for half a year waiting to be fired.

"I liked the fact they were white. I was scared to glaze them, because I thought I would ruin them. I liked the white, unfinished look.

Borobudur is built of dark stone, much of it covered with lichen. But the white glaze gives a sense of sun, of beaches and tropics and bleached bones.

Green did extensive tests to get a glaze which would crackle as it cooled.

In some works she has added an additional glaze, which adds subtle colour to the gaps between the white.

Green started her art education at the Wellington Polytechnic school of design in 1967, followed by a year at Elam in 1968.

She dropped out to go to London, and worked for a commercial pottery, loading the kilns, doing odd jobs and, once she had picked up the knack, throwing pots.

That led to her pursuing a first-class degree in ceramics from the Central School of Art and Design in London.

Despite or perhaps because of her experience in a production pottery, Green prefers building up her sculptures by hand.

"With hand-building you can do anything. You are not restricted to symmetrical things," she says.

With her knowledge of ceramics, she ended up working as a ceramics conservator for the British Museum and other institutions.

After 18 years in London, Green returned to New Zealand and more museum work, as well as the side trip to Lombok, which was about setting up distribution networks for an established craft tradition.

"The Lombok tradition is also coiled but it is a whole different process from how I do it.

"What I like about the Lombok potters is their simplicity. They sit outside their back doors and coil pots and work and work, with the kids all running around.

"Nothing is for ornament. Everything is for people to buy and use."

Six years ago Green made the break to do her own work, supporting herself with part-time teaching.

"For 20 years I had not really been doing anything, and I kept going on about what I was going to do. When I turned 50, I just thought if I don't do it now, I never will," Green says.

The title of the show reflects the way new work must emerge from the imagination.

"They are sort of like a support system, things that remind you of things you are supposed to be doing.

"I never had an imaginary friend, but that's what they seemed like."

As well as the work in Objectspace, Green has some related pieces in the Parallel Universe group show at the Anna Miles Gallery.

"When I get to the end of groups of work, I feel like I am just beginning," she says.


* What: Imaginary Friends by Janet Green
* Where & When: Objectspace, until December 2