Clementina and the humble object’s power


POSSIBILITIES in two dimensions and ceramic. Works by Clementina van der Walt. Photograph by Geoff Sifrin.

IF YOU ARE of a certain era, you hear the name ‘Clementina van der Walt’, and think immediately of a very specific type of ceramic object which became classically the work of this South African potter in the 1990s. They were bold and kind of clunky, they featured loud designs and pattern, and instantaneously they made you smile. But the exhibition currently on show at the Kim Sacks Gallery in Jan Smuts Avenue, Rosebank, views her oeuvre from a completely different aspect, and it’s almost guaranteed to delight you even more.

Here, you see van der Walt as a mature artist, playing not necessarily with what might be commercially sexy, but with the deep earthiness and wit of what it takes to work with mud. In this large exhibition of close to 100 individual pieces, you see van der Walt taking the mickey out of Miro, and tripping the light fantastic with Anubis.

She has been freed to ramp up her sense of quirky all the way, but the objects on show are no less functional than they used to be. Gone is the saturated colour used: her colour in these pieces is earthy, more resonant with mud, more real.

There are pots and plates, tiny spoons and large vases; there are two dimensional ceramic pieces on the wall and racks of cups in satisfying tandem. The installation that will grab you by the solar plexus is, however, a table set for repast.

And as is the wont of the curatorial energy in the Kim Sacks Gallery, there’s a hybrid understanding of what works together aesthetically. The table is set, and the seats? They’re colourful stools made by the Nupe community of Nigeria. Characterised by their many legs, these gorgeous works offer a give and take between the colour and earnestness, the levity and largesse of what van der Walt is doing.

It’s a wonderful show, which like the Goldblatt-Magubane exhibition at the Goodman Gallery, a few meters away, closes soon. Change your plans for the rest of the week: you won’t be disappointed.

  • Stages on the Journey by Clementina van der Walt is at The Kim Sacks Gallery, Rosebank, Johannesburg, until August 25. 011 447 5804.
  • At the opening of this exhibition, van der Walt’s self-published book was launched. Entitled A Ceramic Journey, it is available for purchase at the gallery.

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