Hold Being Held

Hold Being Held, the exhibition, June 27 – September 7 2019 is part of thematic programming that includes a creative residency, project room studios, and community engagement make art events.
Participating artists:

Rachel Grenon
Samantha Dickie
Alan D Burgess
Gordon Hutchens
Jeff Brett
Bobbi Denton
D Gillian Turner

Samantha Dickie, Alan Burgess and Gordon Hutchens will present work rooted in their established practices. Jeff Brett and Bobbi Denton will present works in clay, digital media and sound. In preparation for exhibition, Gillian Turner has been developing work for the exhibition during the project room studio, Water and Shelter. Montreal ceramicist, Rachel Grenon will be conducting site-specific creative research and developing new work for the exhibition during the associated CVAG Creative Residency 2019, May 14 – July 5.

The Hold Being Held exhibition will open with a public reception June 27. This evening of artist facilitated community make art projects, refreshments, food, and conversation with the artists will begin at 5pm. At 7pm the artists will speak to their work and creative process.



Samantha Dickie

Viveka: the radiance of discernment
Drawing on research from current neuroscience, psychology and ancient philosophy, Viveka uses abstract expressionism and sculptural installation to explore the benefits of stillness and observation. The result is an installation designed as a response to the collective and palpable yearning within us to find a small reprieve from the tyranny of time.
Stillness is not just about quiet, but also about the pause, about the space between sounds and thoughts. “Hear the presence,” as Sound Ecologist Gordon Hempton writes.  This concept is central to the work; silence and stillness are highlighted as essential counterpoints to our modern-day rush of endless stimulus, distraction and constant motion.
Viveka invites the viewer to slow down and engage with its components in an immersive environment and to play with the lived experience of presence and pause. The specific variations of the forms themselves, in surface and texture, and the ways in which they are arranged in installations, simultaneously highlight the subtle, microscopic level of observation and the larger, macroscopic experience of stepping into the exhibit as a whole.
This immersive quality of the work is essential. My intention is to bring space and silence into the foreground through calling attention to the dynamic interplay of positive/negative spaces inside, between and surrounding the installed forms. I aim to create a space of contemplation where silence and presence can become an embodied object of observation within the visual narrative. I am curious as to whether this brief pause, the experience of the oppositional nature of subject/object becomes blurred, just for a moment.

Samantha Dickie is a Victoria-based contemporary ceramic artist, focused on abstract expressionism and minimalist sculpture within an installation practice. Following a Bachelor of Arts degree from Trent University, she completed a Diploma in Ceramics from the Kootenay School of the Arts. Over the past 15 years, her practice includes attending various residencies in Canada and abroad; receiving national and provincial grants to create large scale projects for exhibition in public galleries across Canada, as well as teaching workshops and presenting at provincial conferences such as the Canadian Clay Symposium in B.C. and the Fusion Ceramics Conference in Ontario. Recent and upcoming public exhibitions include the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery and the Art Gallery of Burlington, in Ontario; as well as commercial commissions for Louis Vuitton. She is currently represented by Madrona Gallery in Victoria, B.C., and Jonathon Bancroft-Snell Gallery in London, Ontario.

Rachel Grenon

WATER EFFECT (L’effet de l’eau)

I work with clay, a medium I chose because it gives me lots of possibilities. My forms are simple and organic, no frame or sophisticate edges. I make bowls, big and small, to explore the round shapes. The glazes are my colours; the expression itself. I use many different glazes and test the results in combination or on top of each other. And I observe what happens after firing.

In WATER EFFECT I make bowls and boats using the techniques that I know. My bowls and boats are meant to explore the theme of movement, the changing light of the ocean at different times of day, month and through the year. 
WATER EFFECT is also about the calming effect of swimming in cold water at different times of the year. The effect on the human body and the mind. Vancouver Island always attracted me; I suppose it’s there to calm the fire soul of the artist I am.
My WATER EFFECT project is site-specific: it uses not only images of water but also large rocks. It is an artist residency by creating new ceramic pieces and also has a very important component of partnership with local organizations and involvement of local community.

The oval round shape evokes the plenty, the mother belly and arms, protection, calm. The glazes are applied in a generous movement and in different thicknesses.
The shape itself is my trademark: a big bowl as a recipient of the emotion; or the motion talking. My goal is to give one big brush stroke that looks natural and suits the shape.

It’s a question I ask myself a lot when watching people walking: where are they all going; the boats are representing the crowd, the people, but especially the individual in that crowd. I make each boat with a unique pattern referring to the difference between all of us that makes us special.
The boat also evokes the project of going somewhere, it points in a direction for us to move and keep moving.
I will use the colour to connect the boats; the brush strokes will hit them all, using large movements to spread the glazes on all of these at once. The result will attach these in a fluid motion. The boats will be presented in the same order they have been glazed.

The BOTA/ WHERE WE GO part of my project I involve participation of the public. BOTA/ WHERE WE GO is talking about differences.  I like to think of the immigration without any statement just the way the world is driving us to adapt our values and gets us to think as a group instead of individually.

Rachel Grenon is from Saguenay and has studied in western Canada with famous potters from British Columbia and at Emily Carr College of Art and Design in Vancouver and Université Bishop’s in Sherbrooke, Quebec. In March 2004, Grenon set up her studio in Bromont in the Eastern Townships where mountains and valleys juxtapose to feed her inspiration to create using open and generous forms. Grenon has exhibited across Canada and was the 2009 Canadian Selection – Biennale Internationale of CHEONGJU, South Korea. Her work is presented in private and public galleries and public spaces in Canada and internationally.

Alan D Burgess


For thousands of years, pots have contributed in a huge way to our knowledge of past civilizations, their social structure and cultures. Clay vessels have informed us of the everyday way of life of people. Pots have served these cultures in many ways, functionally by carrying water or storing food, and spiritually for use in ceremonial practise. Fine porcelain pots were regarded as a highly valued commodity, and at times used as currency.

My love for clay started 60 years ago when I held the first pot I had made, still warm from the kiln. I have made many pots since, each with its own story. I like to begin by working on an idea, letting it evolve into a series, each series finding its own possible solutions. My journey continues, always looking to both historical achievements and contemporary explorations. Forever the student, my pots often tell stories. They have a voice of their own, at times forthright and clear, sometimes quiet and reflective.

My pots have always been about form and surface enrichment. Always striving for the right shape, the balance between the form I wanted, and the challenge of making it happen. Then choosing the right slips, textures, glazes or drawings to enrich the surface or tell a story .

60 years ago, at the age of 13, I made my first pots while studying at Manchester High School of Art. I later attended Camberwell School of Arts and Crafts in London, in their Multi-media 3D Design Degree Program where I majored in Ceramics. Lucie Rie and Hans Coper were my heroes and they became my teachers, along with Bryan Newman and Colin Pearson.
Living in London was inspirational, with all the great galleries and museums. It was a wonderful learning experience.

I like to work in series, learning from each pot, each leading to the development of the concept.
I enjoy the process of throwing pots, there is still a magic in how a piece of inert clay can be spun on a wheel to enclose space in a myriad of shapes and forms. The challenge for me is creating a dialogue with the clay that allows me to tease it into the form I have in my imagination.Some surfaces get covered with drawings telling stories using ancient symbols, researched from many sources and cultures, as far back as 6000 BC

My teaching career began before coming to Canada. In 1973, I was the Head of the department of Ceramics at Bolton College of Art in England. I had a workshop in North Wales, was a core member of the Guild of North Wales Potters, and exhibited extensively as a Red Rose Guild Master Craftsmen. Since emigrating to Canada in 1982, I built a workshop in Comox and for the past 34 years have been a member of ‘Fired Up’ Contemporary Works in Clay, exhibiting across Canada and the USA . My teaching career continued as instructor in ceramics, drawing and sculpture, and as chair of the Fine Arts department, during my 30 years at North Island College in Courtenay BC.

It has been an amazing 60 years. I have met so many great artists who, like myself, work with clay. I have learned so much, and shared so much. The clay community is international, and perhaps it is because we are all using the very materials of the earth itself, that we share this
collective bond. The myriad of ways that we all transform this most basic of materials into such wonderful expressions is always inspiring.

I continue to make work in my Buckley Bay studio, and my pots may be seen in many public and private collections.

Gordon Hutchens

“I’m attracted to variable glazes where subtle differences in the action of the flame can make a dramatic difference in the character of the glaze ~ where fire tells a story. I get excited by the power of heat, the way fire brings about the transformation, the metamorphosis of elements I’ve combined into something new.
For me the most important thing is finding balance, not just physical balance, but the balance between control and spontaneity, traditional and contemporary, technique and inspiration.
Life on Denman Island gives me both the solitude and the rich aesthetic stimulation to be creative.”

Gordon first became intrigued with pottery at the age of 14 during a visit to Japan, watching potters at work and seeing the revered position of pottery in a culture.
“This is truly a noble profession.”

Gordon received an honours degree in Fine Arts from the University of Illinois majoring in Ceramics (Clay and Glass Blowing). Three semesters of glaze & clay chemistry combined with working through school as the ceramics laboratory assistant gives him an unusually strong technical background.

Gordon produces a variety of work from sculptured to functional, and utilizes an extremely broad range of techniques. His work is well known for the depth and diversity of his glazes and the strength and refinement of his forms. Gordon formulates and blends all his own clay bodies using many different clays from across North America, and bases his porcelain body on a high quality kaolin from England. Local materials are also utilized. Clay from his own property is high in iron and is used in earthenware bodies and in oil spot glazes and metallic luster glazes. Seaweed from the beach is used in salt/sagger firings. Local wood ash is another major glaze ingredient.

Gordon Hutchens’ studio is nestled in 19 wooded acres in the secluded north end of Denman Island, British Columbia. For nearly 30 years Gordon has operated his extensive studio while exhibiting across Canada, from Halifax, Montreal and Toronto to Vancouver & Victoria. He has had over 25 one-man shows and over 70 group exhibitions across Canada and the U.S., with 3 major exhibitions in Japan. Gordon has also taught courses and workshops for many colleges and potter’s guilds. His works and articles have been published in various ceramics magazines and books. He is the author/host of 4 videos: Beginning Raku, Variations on Raku and two videos on Salt and Soda Firing.
Permanent collections include the Bronfman Family’s “Claridge Collection” and the Canadian Museum of Civilization.

Jeff Brett

I am drawn to fire, held captive by the heat, light and colour. I think I always have so it seems natural that I have worked with clay and fired kilns for more than thirty years. I primarily use fuel based kilns. I watch and listen, to learn and understand what a kiln needs me to do so that I successfully fire my work.

There is another aspect of firing kilns that keeps inspiring me. The mesmerizing dance of flames and the sounds emanating from kilns and their environment has me searching. Still and moving images and sounds are what I am collecting. Each time the kiln is stoked with wood it responds by creating a chaotic maelstrom of colours and shapes. Sometimes the kiln builds on its exterior a matt of carbon particles that ignites. The embers softly pulse and gently lifting off into the air. Then there is that moment when stoking the kiln creates a dramatic roar that gradually subsides to reveal an underlying background of croaking frogs and distant barking sea lions. It is a creative and endlessly captivating process.

In addition to recording video and audio, I have recently begun to collect and photograph worn and battered artifacts from kilns. Time and extreme temperatures dramatically change the bricks and steel. Eventually parts fail and require replacement. What is normally discarded as waste or is recycled, I have come to realize are a series of extraordinary objects, a record of the history of firings, containing a beautiful and complex imagery.

I am a husband, a father of two adult sons, a grandfather, a studio technician, an educator, and a multi-disciplinary visual artist. I have lived and worked in the Comox Valley since 1992.
I began my art education at Camosun College in 1983 and completed my bachelor’s degree in Fine Arts from Emily Carr University in 2008. I have worked full-time as a studio technician in the Visual Arts beginning in 1988 at Camosun College, and since 1992 at North Island College in Courtenay, BC.
I have maintained a part-time art practice for over 30 years that spans a variety of disciplines including ceramics, sculpture, printmaking, painting, photography and video.  My practice has focused in the last few years primarily on making functional pottery, video and audio works, and photographs. I make pots with family and friends in mind, thinking of when we are together, pots that we enjoy holding, sharing food and drink. My video and audio works and photographs are an ongoing exploration of the ceramic processes I do including the making of work and firing of kilns.

bobbi denton

Recently I have found personal satisfaction, when working from my most honest emotive landscape.
I mine my own emotional reactions to any given situation.
I am drawn in by a sense of the vulnerable, the fragile, and that sense of barely being.

This work is part of a series, which I have called “Holding Breath – Finding Roots”,
evoking that moment when you fear to draw breath, as if your very breathing can
somehow alter or disturb the balance.
There is a space there, where there is no breath only possibilities, and the intuitive self
takes over.
Recent conflicts, violence, and climatic changes have resulted in worldwide human
displacement and societal rupturing.
Over 68 million people have been forced to up-root.
I feel the need to process and bear witness. The poet Paul Clean wrote:

in Time’s crevasse
by the
alveolate ice
waits, a crystal of breath
your irreversible witness

This uneasiness translated through heart and hand into gestures in clay. The work began with one small porcelain volume in space,
a tiny misshapen vessel with a thin porous membrane,
blurring the internal and the external.
Barely there, this tiny object held breath and memory,
a conversation was born.

I made an other, a different other, with a new breath, an other language and as they
sit together, spaces are defined.
In space and time, each an individual wrapped and vulnerable in their own story. I find stillness in the making, a being in the moment.
Time passes and I make many.
As the work unfolds other forms evolve.

For the small gestures I used porcelain, know as the ‘white gold’.
For centuries, emperors, alchemists and philosophers obsessed over the translucent and luminous qualities of porcelain.
Wars have been fought and lives lost in the pursuit of this delicate and resilient material.

The raw clay forms are wrapped in organic matter
and using a fairly primitive firing process they are fanned by flame, slipping back and forth through shrouds of smoke,
emerging shocked and bruised, barely surviving.

Chance and lack of control through the total firing is an integral part in my process, keeping the work exciting and helping me avoid known destinations.
I see art as a fluid process, continually unfolding and open- ended.

Growing up on a farm in N. Ireland, I acquired a love for, and a great connection to
the land and all sentient beings.
I was the child who carried the ladybug back to her home.
Now living in the beautiful Comox Valley I still carry that sense of wonder and
respect for the ancient wisdoms in our lands and all living forms.
I am drawn into the mystery, bearing witness and sharing through my art process.

I work in multiple mediums, photography, paint, ceramics, video and sound, choosing to work with those that best convey the concept, and open a conversation. I work from a place of “feeling into”. Most of my work starts in the pit of my stomach, respecting that intuitive sense, that there is something that feels uncomfortable.
Giving chance and the lack of control the upper hand, my objective is always to be
surprised and arrive at a place I did not know.

D Gillian Turner

Water that is safe to drink. Water to bathe in without risk of infection. Shelter providing protection and warmth. For much of my life, I have been fortunate to have had easy access to all of these. For many, these necessities are unaffordable luxuries. In February 2019, the CBC televised a short documentary on the peoples of Garden Hill, Manitoba, drawing attention to the 180 families residing there without potable water or electricity. My own community of Fanny Bay, Vancouver Island, has been on a boil water advisory since last December. With consideration of increased awareness towards the effects of climate change, population growth, and future worldwide potable water shortages, I am making small scale ceramic water cisterns and houses. It is my intention to build 180 of each, for installation during the Comox Valley Art Gallery group exhibition, Container/Contained. It is my wish that eventually all Canadian peoples, and all fellow earth dwellers, will have clean, safe water sources and humane safe shelter within which to live. By creating these objects, the intentions and hopes from within my heart and mind materialize and have presence within the tangible realm. Potential for good within myself connects to the potential and abilities of the materials, encouraging internal reflection and potential dialogue for an observer. My small ceramic forms are made of clay and are fired using atmospheric firing methods, with the intention that the naturally occurring decoration will provide a strong connection of the man-made vessels to the natural world. I am grateful.

In an often tumultuous world, the medium of clay is my constant.
In a banal world, it is fresh, responsive and exciting.

I was first introduced to ceramics in the winter of 2009, through a weekly ceramics class at North Island College, Courtenay BC. Making pots for the last decade has taught me as much about myself as the material. For those of us fortunate enough to be in the loop, this is what clay does. Immediacy and responsiveness, much like human relationships, only this partner never gives up. It waits for you, until you’re ready, ready to do amazing things together. I’m still not ready, but after several workshops at Metchosin Summer School for the Arts, the Archie Bray Clay Centre in Montana, combined with the patience and wisdom of the ceramics instructors at NIC, I am learning. I have been mentored by some authentic and highly gifted people. Thank you Alan, Gordon, Angela. Hold Being Held is my first group exhibition, and I am grateful for the residency opportunity and the inexhaustible support of the staff at the Comox Valley Art Gallery. Thank you for being here and supporting the arts community.