Steer’s practice contests the ideals of simplicity and minimalism that underpinned the aesthetics of twentieth-century studio ceramics, instead making forms that are riotously uneven and visually dense.
The surfaces of Steer’s works are gouged, incised, grooved, deformed, squashed and ripped; they are bedecked with spines, protrusions, bridges, limbs and flanges, and their forms are often stacked, lobed or folded. Usually, they contest the vessel form itself through their mutations: tipped on their sides like beached whales, guarded by spikes and lattices like the defensive adaptations of phantasmagorical carnivorous plants, or sealed altogether from the outside world. Although drawn from no real-world culture, Steer’s works have their own bizarre internal logic; they present as artefacts, smaller parts of a larger body with its own inscrutable purposes.
Despite his seemingly anarchic deviations from (and transgressions against) the “ideal standard” advocated by utilitarian ceramicists like Bernard Leach, Steer’s work is grounded in a deep understanding of such received wisdom. His works explore the limits of craft, and the way we internalise the knowledge passed down to us from previous generations. For Steer, ceramics are a living part of his daily experience, and his methodology is intensely grounded in a sense of place, as is evident in his preference for sourcing his own wild clays.
This exhibition was made possible thanks to the generous support of Creative New Zealand and Driving Creek Potteries.