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‘Outsider’ Artist Takes Top Honours at National Ceramic Awards

Wellington self-taught ceramic artist, Robert Rapson has won the 2013 Premier Portage Ceramic Award for his multi-piece installation, Himalaya Serves the World 1949 – Early 70s.

The Award, with a value of $15,000 was presented to Mr Rapson on behalf of this year’s international judge, Amy Gogarty (Canada) at a ceremony held in ‘The Silos’ in Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter this evening.

Gogarty commented that one of the truly lovely aspects of Robert Rapson’s work was the quality of his painted surface.

“Rapson combines efficient drawing, delicious scumbles and keenly observed detail with beautifully modeled plastic form. He reconfigures vivid childhood memories with imagination and wit, creating a vibrant tableau that invites engagement.

His capacity to fully conjure up this improbable scene, to tap into collective fantasies of far-off places and celebratory events using the most direct and expressive of means deserves my highest recognition and respect.”

 Portage Ceramic AwardsRapson’s work is lauded in North America for capturing and celebrating the romance of earlier modes of transport and he has ongoing exhibitions at Galerie Impaire in Paris, where his work regularly sells out.

Two inaugural, international residencies were announced at The Awards ceremony.  

The first, organized by 2012 Awards judge, UK’s Dr. Paul Scott at Guldagergaard residency in Skaelskor, Denmark, was won by Wellington’s Richard Stratton.

Richard Stratton’s exhibition pieces, The Bankers Dog and Hieronymus Bosch Memorial Invalids Cup, impressed Gogarty with their curiosity about historical technologies and traditions.

“The opportunity to view museum collections of works…[in Europe] will undoubtedly fuel future creations, while working with international artists will enable him to frame his vision in new and exciting terms,” she says.

Levin artist, Melissa Ford won the second residency in Medalta, Medicine Hat, Canada.

Gogarty said Ford’s focus on the interplay between human and natural forces and her conceptual grasp of ceramics practice in an expanded field will enable her to embrace the Medalta residency, which is situated on the site of a former ceramics factory.

Three Portage Merit Awards were also announced tonight.

The first to Canterbury’s Jane McCullah for her work, Walking Within which Gogarty says “rewards patient viewing of its subtle tonalities, delicate texturing and coherent, considered form.”

A second Cantabrian – Kim Henderson, won a merit award for Trailing Skirt Tails 1 & 2. Large slab vessels which Gogarty says “are beautifully constructed, and the graphic sensibility, masterful brushwork and layered colour of her surfaces contribute to completely satisfying form.”

Northland clay artist, Maria Hewitt took this year’s third merit award for the attention to surface in her simulated cardboard construction, Transaction (Broken Diptych), which Gogarty described as a quiet but powerful work.

Each merit award winner received $2,000.

The 2013 Portage Ceramic Awards winners and finalist works will be on exhibition at ‘The Silos’ for one week only, from 12 – 20 October.

The 60 works in the exhibition vary in size from fingernail minute to multi-piece, metre-high installations and range in colour from porcelain white to eye-popping psychedelic. They were selected from more than 200 entries by clay artists all over the country.

A People’s Choice Award will also be given this year. Entry forms for the public to vote for this Award are available at the exhibition.

Established in 2001, The Portage Ceramic Awards are New Zealand’s premier showcase for the ceramic arts. Administered by Lopdell House Gallery and funded by The Trust’s Community Foundation, the awards are the country’s best known barometer identifying our finest ceramic artists.

These annual awards and exhibition provide a vital platform to showcase the diversity of ceramic artists nationwide. The Portage Ceramic Awards are thrilled to be part of Art Week for the first time this year.

The 2013 Portage Ceramic Awards ceremony begins at 8.00pm on Friday 11 October at ‘The Silos’ Auckland’s Wynyard Quarter.

To register your interest in interviews with the winners, filming or photography at the awards or for further information, please contact: Penny Hartill, Hartill PR, 09 445 7525, 021 721 424,


Editor’s notes:

Wellington artist, Robert Rapson’s work is characterized by a painterly approach to remembering transport vehicles of bygone eras. The son of a Wharfie, Rapson’s art is heavily influenced by memories of his father’s work and vivid memories of his Canadian mother sailing back to Canada for a visit on a passenger liner.

His work is exhibited and commissioned internationally. Represented by Quadrant Gallery, Dunedin, his work can also be found in galleries around New Zealand.

Amy Gogarty received her MFA in Painting from the University of Calgary. She taught visual art history and theory and ceramics history at the Alberta College of Art and Design in Calgary from 1990 to 2006. In 2006, she relocated to Vancouver, where she works as an independent researcher, writer and artist. She has participated in numerous national and international academic panels and published over 100 reviews, catalogue and critical essays on issues arising in craft disciplines. She curated Greg Payce: Illusions at the Gardiner Museum of Ceramic Art in Toronto, and chaired a panel, Ceramics at the Edge of Form, at the 2012 NCECA in Seattle.  She has served on the board of the Potters Guild of British Columbia and continues to serve on the board of the North-West Ceramics Foundation in Vancouver.