John Parker has always travelled a different road from other New Zealand studio potters.
Most learned their craft by working with a senior practitioner such as Barry Brickell or Yvonne Rust and poring over Bernard Leach's A Potter's Handbook.
However, Parker took the academic route and studied at the Royal College of Art under Continental ceramicists Hans Coper and Lucie Rie, thereby aligning himself with a modernist/industrial direction alternative to the Anglo-Japanese, Leach/Hamada tradition followed by most locals, including Len Castle and Chester Nealie.
Back home with his London MA in ceramics, in 1977 Parker sought out sympathetic antecedents in the expatriate Kiwi and Wedgwood designer Keith Murray and his one-time assistant Ernie Shufflebotham of "Crown Lynn Hand Potted" fame. This lineage is acknowledged in a group of pristine white porcelain grooved pieces, Still Life for Keith and Ernie and Ewald - the last named being Swedish potter and designer Ewald Dahlskog (1894-1950), especially noted for his grooved vessels.
This handsome, landscape-format hardback fully documents the survey exhibition of Parker's work of the same title at Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, which ends tomorrow. It superbly encompasses 50 years of dedicated practice - the earliest pieces date from 1972-73 - and, thanks to brilliant design (by Derek Ward) and photography (by Haru Sameshima), has a permanent record in one of the finest books on ceramics produced in this country.
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Like the exhibition, the book largely forgoes chronology in favour of thematic groupings under such evocative titles as Form Foils Function, Body Electric, Machine Talk and Clear and Present Danger - the last being clusters of spiky wall-mounted cones bathed in constantly changing coloured lights (an eight-page spread).
The written contributions are all authoritative while some of the double-page openings in particular, featuring more than a dozen individual pieces, are stunning.
What: John Parker: Cause and Effect
Edited by Mary Barr with contributions by Jim and Mary Barr, Andrew Clifford, Grace Cochrane and Douglas Lloyd-Jenkins. (Te Uru Waitakere Contemporary Gallery, $85)
Reviewed by: Peter Simpson