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James Greig: Defying Gravity


Sat 10 Dec 2016, 10:00am
Sun 12 Mar 2017, 5:00pm

Where: The Dowse Art Museum, 45 Laings Rd, Lower Hutt, Wellington Region

Restrictions: All Ages

Ticket Information:

  • Admission: Free

'Defying Gravity' brings together a lifetime of sculptural works by potter James Greig.

Greig’s study of Eastern and Western philosophy, modernist architecture and natural science fuelled a practice that went far beyond the realm of domestic ceramics.

From early in his career, Greig created abstracted vessels based on land and plant forms, water and the human body. He cultivated an understanding of the physical qualities of clay by moulding and building sculptural forms, sometimes too big for him to move alone. Exploring the dynamic nature of the medium, he melded slabs together to create almost impossible structures. Expressing his values through clay, he brought life and movement to inert objects.

Born in 1936, Greig began studying architecture in the late 1950s. He came across the work of potter Len Castle one afternoon when passing by a shop front. Awestruck by how these works reminded him of water rushing around the Devonport ferry, Greig sought Castle out in order to learn from him. After stints in Northland and the Manawatū, Greig and his family settled in the Wairarapa.

As an established potter, Greig interest in the Mingei movement (pioneered by 20th-century ceramicists Bernard Leach, Shoji Hamada and Kanjiro Kawai), led him to seek opportunities in Japan and study Eastern philosophy further. By the 1980s he had become a well-known figure in the international ceramics world, and a New Zealand cultural ambassador in Japan.

In 1986, Greig’s career was cut short when he died of a heart attack on the morning of his third solo exhibition at the prestigious Akasaka Green Gallery in Tokyo. As a result of his untimely death, Greig remains something of an unsung figure in New Zealand art and ceramics history, best known to connoisseurs and historians. Defying Gravity seeks to unpack Greig’s practice, share his vision and work with a today’s audience, and acknowledge his unique approach which reconfigured the boundaries between ceramics and sculpture.