Lyttelton-based ceramicist Cheryl Lucas was born in Central Otago in the 1950s. She attained a Diploma in Fine and Applied Arts (Major: Graphics), with Distinction, from the Otago Polytechnic School of Art, Dunedin in 1975 and, in 1978, a Certificate in Advanced Printmaking (Major: Lithography), from Wimbledon College of Art, London. Lucas has taught art at secondary school and from the late ‘80s to 2005 she tutored Bachelor of Design students in drawing and ceramics at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology.
Lucas’s practice celebrates ceramics as art objects. It also draws attention to the increasingly pervasive presence of disposable items in our consumerist society. Whereas once ceramic objects and vessels were prized for both their utilitarianism and beautiful form, with artisans tasked with decorating jugs and urns which are still being discovered on archaeological digs and subsequently sent straight to museums, we are now increasingly reliant upon plastic – bottles, wrap etc. – all of which contributes to the enormous quantity of landfill we generate every day. Lucas’s Redundant Jugs are hand-thrown and simply glazed before having their bottoms cut off thus rendering them useless as utilitarian objects. They’re also somewhat squished which challenges our notions of perfection. Lucas’s Jugs are wonderful wall mounted or clustered on an art shelf; they make an interesting, humorous and thought-provoking installation.
In her larger work Lucas merges fine and applied art. Her interest in clay integrates three-dimensional shape with surface imagery in a continued examination of vessels as exterior surface and interior space. Essentially, she is creating modern heirlooms – treasured relics of or for the future. In her outdoor sculptural work, Lucas is currently exploring what she aptly and humorously describes as “space junk” – the proliferation of inanimate objects which clutter rural spaces: agricultural implements associated with stacking, binding, holding, etc. So often, explains Lucas, these objects – these lumbering forms – don’t appear to be connected to anything – they might very well have fallen there – they are ‘aliens’ within their environment. Lucas’s observation is indicative of the artist’s enduring quest: the value of form versus function.
Lucas has been a fulltime practising artist since 1995 and is recognised as a leading practitioner in her field. She has held solo shows and participated in group shows in New Zealand and abroad, including in the USA. Lucas was recently represented among a contingent of New Zealand ceramic artists at the International Museum of Contemporary Ceramics, China.