When Dutch-born Sonja Landweer came to Ireland in 1965 (at the invitation of the fledgling Kilkenny Design Workshops) she had already established her reputation as a ceramicist. She made elegant wheel-thrown, vessel-shaped pieces, and the typical Landweer form blossomed from an incredibly slim base. Though clearly employing a functionally inspired shape, these vessels were aesthetic rather than functional objects. This is not by way of introducing another instalment of the art-versus-craft debate, a debate which, like the abstract-versus-representational debate, is usually beside the point.
It is more a preamble to noting that, in much of her work in her exhibition at the Peppercanister Gallery, Landweer is, albeit differently and very well, doing pretty much the same thing: making ceramics based on vessel forms. Except that this recent work is more overtly sculptural and comes across as being, figuratively as well as literally, darker. Literally so because the forms are heavier and denser, and she has made extensive use of an extraordinary black finish, contrasting it with the occasional use of gold. One set of pieces is not vessel-shaped at all. These Relationships are multi-element arrangements, made up of clusters of columnar, phallic forms.
These forms may refer to people, though they could as easily relate to any homogeneous grouping of animals, plants or even stones. The relationships, in any case, are close, concentrated but not exactly harmonious. In some respects these works are reminiscent of Eithne Jordan’s Beauty and the Beast paintings, in which the figure of a woman is the focus for a range of enveloping, suffocating pressures on the part of those around her. Similarly, Landweer sites single, golden individuals in the midst of surrounding, perhaps supportive, perhaps threatening, presences.