Anna Miles Gallery


Head Jam Vases

18/02/23 — 30/03/23

Richard Stratton’s Head Jam Vases reflect his perennial fascination with the politics of design. The form he has chosen is based on a bud vase of Japanese origins. The regular tubular neck provides the perfect site for transfer printing, while the flaring bulb-shaped base challenged him to produce a crazy paving collage of fragments.

The surface embellishment of the vases brings together thousands of years of pattern-making developed across multiple ages. Many of the designs have their basis in isometric perspective or tessellation. The ziggurat-like lightning bolt comes from Ancestral Pueblo pottery. The ‘tumbling block‘ tile pattern dates to the 1970s. The pastel polygons are ‘lozenge camouflage’, a design used on WWI German biplanes. In ‘Scrapbook Vase’, terracotta and black geometry hosts speech bubble-shape samplings from the artist’s collection of 1930s floral linoleum.

The vases reflect Stratton’s interest in the trafficking of design across cultural borders and in particular what he refers to as, the “contortion and twisting of the West”. The Buddhist or Jain Sauwastika pattern featured, comes from a Japanese cast iron teapot in his kitchen — the ancient benevolent iconography of this geometric design long since obscured by its twentieth century Nazi appropriation. That Stratton focuses on the complex inscription of an object he uses daily is typical. “Love of linear decoration and repurposing is hard wired into my psyche.” The ways a teapot on a kitchen table ushers a history of cultural politics into the domestic world never fails to inspire him.

The ‘more is more’ cultural patchwork of these vases is a characteristic Stratton creation — a kind of outlandish exercise in how much a domestic object might carry. Two distinctive qualities of ceramics are key to these vessels: Ceramics have played a votive role in many cultures and ceramic fragments are often the last material link to ancient lives.

The Head Jam Vases are captivated by the carrying of time — time of day dreams, civilisations and brief human lives. One life has played a particularly important role in their generation. The vases are dedicated to Stratton’s childhood scrapbooking companion and much-loved sister. The floating red blossoms — C18th Chinese export Imari peonies — are for her.

See more by Richard Stratton

Porcelaneous Vessels of Karori

Head Jam, 2022
Ceramic, 405mm H

53 Candles, 2022
Ceramic, 380mm H

Turn the switch off when you leave, 2022
Ceramic, 365mm H

Turn the switch off when you leave, 2022
(alternate view)

All stitched up, 2022
Ceramic, 390mm H

Scrapbook Vase, 2022
Ceramic, 420mm H

Scrapbook Vase, 2022
(alternate view)

Vortex II Teapot, 2019
Porcelain for dimensions see scale reference image

Scale reference

Richard Stratton was born in Ōtepoti Dunedin in 1970 and graduated from Otago School of Art in 1993. In 2010 he was awarded the Dowse Art Museum Deane Award for Decorative Arts & Design. In 2015 he took up a residency at the Guldagergaard International Ceramic Research Centre, Denmark. In 2017 he was awarded the premier award at the Portage Ceramic Awards. His Dowse Art Museum exhibition, Living History, toured the country in 2017-8. Stratton’s work is represented in public and private collections in Aotearoa and overseas including those of Auckland War Memorial Tāmaki Paenga Hira, Dowse Art Museum and Te Papa Tongarewa.