'Polyrhythmic Clay' - Ian Garrett

Collection: 'Polyrhythmic Clay' - Ian Garrett

Polyrhythmic Clay
Ian Garrett
19.08.21 - 18.10.21


Although the times we live in have been marked by uncertainty and tumultuousness, creativity can help restore hope and harmony. Ian Garrett, one of South Africa’s foremost ceramic artists, has achieved this through the creation of a new body of ceramic vessels – works of gravitas, depth and rhythm. These clay vessels were created over the past three years, a period which included times of lockdown and isolation due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

This solo exhibition of Garrett’s work, Polyrhythmic Clay, at EBONY/CURATED in Cape Town, presents an opportunity to viewers and collectors to reconnect with his extraordinary work, and to explore the multi-layered inspirations and meanings of the vessels. The works portray the artist’s deep sense of introspection, and a reawakening of long-held inspirations, to reveal intimate connections to a plethora of muses. Garrett’s vessels are complex creations. Shapes and forms are meticulously, methodically and mathematically approached, with great thought and attention given to the detailed patterning of the ceramic surface.

The vessels exude a symbiotic relationship - a ‘oneness’ between maker and clay, between materials and the process of making, between vessel form and surface patterning. There is fluidity between the rhythms of forming the vessel walls, the drying and firing processes, and the composition and impression of patterns onto the clay surface – a polyrhythmic amalgam indeed.

Garrett’s new vessels are explorations beyond the familiar iconic black or reddish brown burnished and delicately patterned surfaces associated with the artist’s oeuvre. A palette of warm colours has emerged that attunes to nature – earth, sky, rocks, sand, plants, seeds and wood. Detailed textured lined surfaces encapsulate smoothened glossy areas, reminiscent of pods enfolding seeds. Compositions of woven basket-like forms have depth and a three-dimensional effect. There is a constant interplay between areas of light and shadow, between textured and smoothened surfaces, and between colours and patterns positioned alongside each other.

Garrett’s vessels are timeless. They carry an inherent ancient, old worldliness, yet are simultaneously contemporary and reflective of the present. Garrett has a particular regard for the methods of construction and the different firing processes employed by southern African Zulu, Sotho and Venda potters. He is also fascinated by the use of pattern in the ceramics of ancient North and South America, Neolithic Europe and India.

But the muse that undergirds everything in this new collection is Garrett’s rekindled interest in African musicology. Indeed, as African music is celebrated for its complex polyrhythms, so are Ian Garrett’s vessels – they are complex and sophisticated. These finely shaped vessels are wrapped in layered patterning, in a confluence of influences - a coming together of multiple rhythms of inspiration in the psyche of the artist.

Text by Esther Esmyol
Curator: Iziko Museums of South Africa