The play of light shimmering off shiny ceramic surfaces is the cornerstone of a new exhibit at the Red Deer Museum and Art Gallery.
Trudy Golley’s Lucent: Works in Light and Shadow is a study of precision. First there’s her meticulously rendered ceramic shapes, each free of visible imperfections; then there’s the exact way the light hits them, bouncing off the glazed surfaces to create interesting reflections.
Museum display workers took great pains to manipulate the focused overhead lights, said Golley, so they shine directly onto her gold and titanium-covered surfaces, sending a cascade of light bouncing across, behind and around the ceramic works.
Golley sees this light play as being as integral to her art as the pieces she has carefully crafted out of porcelain.
Some of the most eye-catching work in this 15-year retrospective of Golley’s art lines an entire wall. Her (A) Blaze installation involves 13 versions of a similar large white vase. Each has reed-like organic shapes coming out of the top. And each vase sits on a textured base that’s coated with a reflective titanium surface.
When light hits these uneven bases, rippling reflections shine along the smooth, rounded bottoms of the vases. The effect is reminiscent of the light rebounding off the surface of a stream and reflecting on rocks along the banks.
“Looking at what the light is doing on these things, I’ve been excited by it,” said Golley, who “couldn’t be more pleased” about how people are responding to the work.
Many have commented on how her light manipulation brings nature to mind.
Golley, who teaches ceramics at Red Deer College, loves to contrast the ephemeral and fleeting — light — with the solid and tangible — ceramics.
“It’s like you’re standing under a tree and light is coming through the canopy of leaves,” she explained. How can the design of shadows that the leaves create be separated from the light that’s coming between them?
In Great Wave, a curl-shaped ceramic wall hanging that Golley has glazed in 24-karat gold sends a golden stream of light flowing against the wall around the piece, and also within the negative space inside the wave.
Similarly, in JDZ Spirals, light hits a rippling, titanium-glazed surface and creates an undulating reflection in purples and greens above the two-piece, curl-shaped ceramic wall hanging.
Golley said she coated the left spiral in titanium, then glazed it — a process that creates an opalescent, mother-of-pearl-like finish. When light hits it, different coloured reflections result. By contrast, the right spiral, which was not glazed after being coated in titanium, produces a white light reflection. Where it doesn’t merge with coloured light, it appears almost like a finely detailed chalk pastel drawing.
Other works in the exhibit resemble broken wallpaper patterns, and still others represent the artist’s salute to talented women throughout history.
Memory 2 (Squared) is a ceramic work that looks like 49 stacks of paper topped by round-bottomed cups turned onto their sides. Each cup has an orange-ish exterior and a slit that lets in light at the bottom, symbolizing female genitalia. The interior of each cup is painted a rich, ultramarine blue — the colour associated with the Virgin Mary in historic art.
Memory 2 (Squared) is Golley’s representation of women who made significant contributions in art and literature but were not recorded by male historians. “Just because women’s accomplishments weren’t recorded doesn’t mean they didn’t exist,” she said.
Golley, who studied at the Alberta College of Art and Design, the University of Calgary, and the University of Tasmania in Australia, often catches herself observing the way light plays off a ceramic wall hanging she made for her own kitchen.
As the setting sun throws ever-changing light reflections across the wall, Golley is always mesmerized by their beauty and variety.
When the light finally “winks out” as the sun dips below the horizon, she said, “you feel a weird sense of loss. …”
The artist, who exhibits globally, has ceramics in numerous private and public collections in Canada. This includes the Alberta Foundation for the Arts, which loaned (and even funded) some pieces in this show that runs to Oct. 26.
Golley will speak about her art at the Red Deer museum on Sunday, Sept. 21, from 2 to 3 p.m.