Arts Arts and Culture Exhibit

Trevor Baird’s Sunkissed at Pangée

Embracing age-old methods to create new work that feels ancient.

Trevor Baird is a Montréal-based artist with a BFA in ceramics from Concordia University whose works have been exhibited domestically and internationally. His current exhibition Sunkissed is now on view at Pangée, a gallery located inside a historic 100-year-old building, formerly known as the Czech Consulate. The gallery directly overlooks Mont-Royal park, making it a favoured destination for the art community of Montréal. 

Upon entering the building, a fluorescent sign bathes the entrance in warm, red light and directs visitors upstairs into the gallery space. The bright and sunlit space smells of fresh oil paint, initially gravitating the visitors toward Delphine Hennelly’s whimsical exhibition, Behind the Scenes.

In the adjacent room, Trever Baird’s exhibition features a long podium in the centre of space which displays a collection of wood-fired stoneware works. This new body of work marks a significant departure from his previous method of working, for Baird is embracing a new approach to ceramics. “It’s been a while since I’ve shown and have completely rethought my entire practice since Covid,” Baird wrote in a recent post on Instagram, “moving away from a more technical practice to an intuitive one took a long time to understand, but I’m so much more satisfied with this work than I have been in the past.”

Trevor Baird’s Arca Mundi, 2023, Ash Glazed Stoneware. Photo by Emma Bell / The Concordian.

The collection overall has the distinct, rustic quality of archeological discoveries, leading the viewer to question whether they are looking at contemporary artworks or antiquities. In the poignant words from artist Rebecca Storm’s accompanying exhibition text, “Tarnished, at times seeming to have surrendered to erosion, or to the slow creep of lichen, [the ceramics of Trevor Baird] bear ciphers of antiquity, teasing the viewer into speculation. Have I been newly created, they ask, or have I been found?”

For example, the repeated motif of the ribcage (Arca Mundi, 2023) may remind the viewer of fossilized human remains, preserved by the earth. “Ribs are the artist’s interpretation of the alchemical concept of the vessel as the symbol for the soul,” Storm wrote. The rib cage both protects and metaphorically imprisons the heart—the presumed locus of the human soul. Baird’s “remains” are imbued with a sense of the spirit of the body they perhaps once belonged to. 

Sunkissed will be on view at Pangée from Jan. 20 to March 2.


Happening in and around the White Cube this week…

Ceramic student association hosts drop-in make-a-thon

You can find ceramics students nestled in the far corner of the VA building’s basement at all hours of the day. It’s a patient art. Trial and error is to be expected.

Every year, the Concordia Ceramic Student Association (CCSA) hosts a 12-hour make-a-thon where students, faculty and staff are invited to participate in handbuilding and spinning. This year, I joined them for a half hour or so, and had the opportunity to create a weird flower-like bowl, before I decided to crush it and deposit it in the clay buckets to be reused. I don’t have much experience handbuilding but I do really enjoy the act of making, once I surpass the intense feelings of frustration I associate with the medium.

“Ceramics classes are very hard to get into at Concordia, especially as a non-ceramics student,” said Fiona Charbonneau, who took ceramics in CEGEP but hasn’t yet at Concordia. “I came down to talk to people and get to know the medium more by participating in the making, it’s for a good cause.”

The funds raised from the many cups and bowls made during the make-a-thon go towards the department’s participation in the annual National Council on Education for the Ceramic Arts conference. This year, held from March 25-28 in Richmond, Virginia, students attending the conference will have the opportunity to view demos, share techniques with other ceramicists, attend artist talks, gallery tours and buy special equipment.

According to its website, “the Visual Arts Center of Richmond […] has helped adults and children explore their creativity and make art since 1963. Each year, the organization touches the lives of more than 33,000 people through its classes, exhibitions, community outreach programs, camps, workshops and special events.”

Rooted in tactility, clay is a very therapeutic medium that teaches balance, stability and how to centre oneself. Even the act of cutting into clay has the serene power to calm me down. As someone who teaches basic handbuilding to children with very limited experience, I’ve learned to not sweat the small stuff, finding freedom within the “rules” (and trying not to blow up all the pieces in the kiln because of a tiny air bubble). Within this, there are techniques that are, overall, pretty helpful in day-to-day life.



Photos by Cecilia Piga


A look back of early trades of Japanese ceramics

Railroad builder shares his passion of Japanese art

Art can be found in every shape and pattern. Obsession: Sir William Van Horne’s Japanese Ceramics introduces a railroad builder’s passion for Japanese art. The exhibition takes place in a small obscure room in the MMFA, exposing nearly 150 pieces of ceramics. Alongside the Japanese ceramics, there are various archival documents and watercolours by Van Horne.

Visitors can observe and appreciate pots, bowls, cups and figurines that are displayed across the room. Every ceramic in the room is distinct due to its shape, colour, and motifs illustrated on it. Some are long and cylindrical, whereas others are small and round; this collection illustrates the diversity in Japanese art.

One of the most remarkable pieces is a sake bottle with moulded porcelain figurines of three boys, depicted as if they were running around the bottle. There is also an incense burner in the shape of a cat that can easily catch one’s attention. Another astonishing work is the sake ewer – a jug with a wide mouth. The piece has a rat-shaped spout and a cat-shaped lid knob.

According to the exhibition page on the MMFA’s website, the American-born Van Horne was known as a railroad builder, in 1881, when he participated in the extension of the Canadian Pacific Railway to British Columbia. This plan was developed by the Macdonald government and brought Van Horne recognition since the project was under his leadership.

The opening of Japan in 1854 allowed the West to collect Japanese ceramics. Ceramics were a great source of trade in the Western market. Japanese scholar Ninagawa Noritane, along with Boston zoologist Edward S. Morse, believed that exporting these Japanese ceramics would be more appealing to people, since they were more “authentic”, than exporting ware. Noritane played a big part in creating an international market for Japanese ceramics.

Then, Japanese ceramics caught the attention of many people. Van Horne was able to purchase ceramic pieces from art dealers, such as Shugio Hiromichi who traveled between Tokyo and New York. Most of these collectors lived in Montreal’s Square Mile, where they decorated their homes with various ceramics.

Visitors have access to small details throughout the exhibition, explaining how all this came to be. Van Horne was able to purchase at least 1200 ceramics through a network of merchants from Boston, Japan and New York. all of his Japanese ceramics were preserved in his house. He would study them, observing each detail. Then, he would draw them and describe each one in his many notebooks. His writings and drawings can be observed by visitors.

The exhibition offers visitors a taste of Japanese art, but also encourages them to understand the socio-economic structures that permitted collectors such as Van Horne to have access to it, and understand the impact of the expansion of railroads during the 19th century.

 Obsession: Sir William Van Horne’s Japanese Ceramics will be available at Montreal’s Museum of Fine Arts from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. from Tuesday to Sunday until March 1.


Photo by Brittanny Romeo-Clarke.


Slipping through the cracks

For ceramic artists, patience makes all the difference

Ceramics is an often overlooked art practice that requires tremendous patience. Yet it is the foundation for everyday life. Humans have been sculpting with clay since the dawn of time, making pots and bowls to cook with and store food in. Ceramics branches off of that. Now much more refined, the process creates delicate products to be used and admired. Ceramics are handled daily but rarely contemplated. Have you ever stopped to wonder how long it took to create the mug you ritually drink coffee out of?

According to the Concordia Ceramics Student Association (CCSA), there is a female majority in the program, and it is  entirely run by women. Among these is Sara Sadawi, specializing in functional objects like mugs, cups, plates and bowls. She particularly enjoys working with slabs of clay and using a technique called “slips” to add colour to her work. “Slips” is a form of pigmented liquid clay that can be applied to the surface of a project to add colour. Sadawi uses this method to create layers of colour, that, once carved into, reveal a hidden interior.

Although she usually works on many small pieces at a time, which can take from a few days to about a week to complete, her focus is currently on her first large-scale project: creating complex compositions out of handmade clay geometric forms. Sadawi has been working on the form for this assignment for three weeks, and hasn’t begun the additional two-week glazing and firing process yet.

Ceramic pieces can be made out of several different materials, or “clay bodies,” such as earthenware, stoneware, raku clay and porcelain. Each of their unique characteristics enable ceramic artists to vary the use and temperature at which the different clays can be fired in the kiln. According to Sadawi, stoneware is a mid-range firing clay body, which means the material must be fired at higher temperature compared to earthenware, a low fire clay, which requires much less heat.

Pieces are processed differently in each type of kiln firing. Using a wood, gas or electric kiln will have a different effect on the object being fired. According to CCSA, “the facilities and instructors at Concordia introduce students to a wide range of tools, techniques and processes for working with clay.” Over the course of the program, students learn how to mix different clay bodies, glazes and firing processes.

Catherine De Abreu created her globe, Anthropocene, using a combination of time-consuming techniques. Photo by Hannah Ewen.

Concordia fine arts alumna, Catherine De Abreu and Julie Lavoie are two of the five exhibiting artists at 573°, the Virginia McClure Ceramic Biennale currently displayed at the McClure Gallery in Westmount. Although they have very visually distinct bodies of work, both artists prefer to handbuild and smoke fire their pieces. Handbuilding means to sculpt the product by hand rather than use a mold or other tools. Smoke firing requires the artist’s physical and mental presence and can often take up to 13 hours. It is a time-consuming, hot and labour-intensive process. It can also completely change a piece, causing it to crack or burn to a crisp. While this may seem like a risk, it is a fact that ceramic artists embrace.

It is as though I am in partnership with the kiln,” De Abreu said. “I do my work, then the kiln continues independently.”

Handling rich materials like clay takes self-control, patience and the ability to let go. “As artists, in society, we have to endure a lot of patience not just in creating and completing the work, but also in finding a place to fit in, or not to fit in,” Sadawi said.

Sadawi will be participating in the Ceramics Student Association’s upcoming fundraiser, Come and get your pot! on Nov. 14 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. in front of the FOFA Gallery in Concordia’s EV building.

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