When thinking about the unique craft of ceramics, international ceramicist Grayson Perry (the winner of the Turner Prize) comes to mind. He is best known for his hyper-sensitised, satirical commentary painted on outstanding vases and vessels. Perry deals with gender stereotypes, class issues and Britain today. SA, unfortunately, has a noticeable dearth of this ancient art form – think of the Greeks, the Chinese. However, working from the spare room in her Keurbooms treehouse, Lucinda Mudge is changing things.

Lucinda Mudge
Lucinda Mudge
Image: Vanessa Vav Vreden

Represented by Trent Read of Knysna Fine Art, her collection of vases – varying in height from 40cm-70cm – are a cacophony of colour and statement, layered with a sticky sweet, shiny glaze that’s offset with flashes of gold. There’s a naivety to the drawings that decorate each bulbous, sensual surface. A child-like representation of tigers and leopards, women and men, art deco patterns, ancient fleur de lis – and rings of barbed wire. Hers is a sociopolitical statement, a comment on the state of the nation.

But in no way the expected form. “My work is sociopolitical,” the artist explains. “It’s all about what it means to have a lot of money in a country where people don’t have a lot of money. I can’t escape talking about the relationship between money and privilege in SA. What that is and how we look at it, and having compassion towards people who have a lot less than us.”

If I wasn’t making vases, I tell you I would be making something else with my hands.

The Mudge name is familiar to those who know design. Brother James is a successful and soughtafter furniture maker based in Cape Town. Mudge says they had an interesting upbringing, with parents who were little interested in a conventional life. “I was born in a cottage in Brackenhill with no electricity or water.”

Her parents ran a furniture business and the children grew up surrounded by wood, watching master craftsmen. “We used to get little bits of wood and glue and make boats. We’ve always felt very capable. James is a furniture maker and I’m making vases and if I wasn’t making vases, I tell you I would be making something else with my hands.” The ceramicist studied fine art at Michaelis, University of Cape Town, before moving to London, where she worked as a photographer for Ralph Lauren.

The simplified version is she had a baby, started working with clay and returned to SA. “The thing that draws me to clay is the potential of the piece,” she says, explaining how she initially started painting on oversized tiles, creating exaggerated narratives, using the clay as a canvas. “When you’re working with clay you don’t really know what it’s going to look like. No other art form has the potential that clay has because you only see it for the first time once it has come out of the firing, out of the kiln, and then you have to love it or hate it because you can’t change it.”

Read, the owner of Knysna Fine Art, saw her work and was immediately convinced of her talent. “I think Lucinda’s work is just gorgeous. That sounds trite, but it’s rare that I see something that I absolutely covet. And it’s not just me. I’m watching her grow into something very collectable. Very bright people are buying her work.” finearts.co.za

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