The Canadian Art Database

Robin Mathews

Gerald Tillapaugh
Focus Gallery, Edmonton

Canadian Art #88, Vol. XX #6, Nov / Dec 1963.
[ 353 words ]

Tillapaugh is a sculptor-potter. His exhibition reveals bold experiment and a wide range of work. It is not the exhibition of a mature artist playing variations on a theme that he has grown into and consolidated by years of experience and hard thought. It is rather the exhibition of a young man (Tillapaugh is 23) seriously engaged in testing all the limits of his medium and achieving some surprising and beautiful results in the process.

Drawing inspiration from rocks and trees and, occasionally, human form, the artist presents the whole gamut of his studio: clay sketches combining line and volume; relief mosaic; human masks, highly stylized; abstract sculpture; and, of course, pots. Mostly the work is unadorned or darkly glazed stoneware. The experiment is in form and the relation of a narrow range of glazes to form. The pots are brushed, scraped, moulded, superimposed upon, and fitted together. They have the appearance of metal and wood as well as of conventional clay products. But there is no sense of preciousness or arty reaching after effects, for there is no glibness and almost no repetition.

Tillapaugh understands elegant form and restrained glazing effects, but like many fine-potters in Alberta he feels that western potters are searching out a tradition of their own — different, especially, from the traditions of the Canadian East. He reveals a constant return and relation to natural forms, no matter how much they are refined in the finally exhibited objects. The pieces of sculpture are nearly all abstracts of landscape or tree forms and bear significantly upon the freedom of the more conventional pottery.

Some things don't work. Occasionally surface decoration or 'play' seems to part from form, instead of enhancing or reinforcing it. Occasionally work appears to have cracked merely as a result of misfiring. But the show is exhilarating, demanding of the viewer that he ask all the questions about clay that the artist in his search for the outward limits of possibility has asked himself.

Canadian Art #88, Vol. XX #6, Nov / Dec 1963.

Text: © Robin Mathews. All rights reserved.

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