If the eyes are the windows to the soul, that makes the face the front of the house, and we know what’s happening to the housing market these day. Faces are very valuable.
John Lawrence knew this as he spent three years creating dozens of ceramic portraits for his exhibition “The Human Expression”, on now at Te Manawa.
“I wanted to have different layers of interest,” John explains. “I wanted mostly history – something that I’m passionate about, especially art history – but also something that was a general appeal to people.”
The Dannevirke artist has drawn inspiration from famous artists like Picasso, from his family, from television, from people in his community, and other sources. The works are as diverse as snowflakes – often similar shapes, but defined by the details unfolding within.
John indicates one particular portrait. “This is a tribal mask, which is really surprising because it looks so modern, so contemporary.” The original mask is actually 150 years old or more.
Sometimes he’ll watch TV with a camera in hand to capture the people he sees. One individual in particular is represented in multiple portraits. “[She’s] a TV person that I’ve enjoyed watching over the years. They show how she’s changed – her hairstyle mostly, and how it changed her whole personality.”
Ceramic has always been John’s favoured medium.
“I’ve used clay for 65 years for different reasons, and I find it a lot easier.” He developed a technique of veneering and laminating clay using extremely thin layers, fired at 1200 degrees.
“It’s taken me a long time to perfect it so it doesn’t fall off again,” he says with a chuckle.
The Human Expression is open until 30 October.