May 19 – June 17, 2023

Small Gallery

En Masse

Aileen Vantomme

Artist Talk + Reception: Friday May 19th at 5pm

En Masse is an exhibition of ceramic works inspired by the ubiquitous sea shell: from the calming effects discovered through the search and collection of individual specimens, to the descriptive qualities when considered collectively. The exhibit includes works from three ongoing series: a grouping of vessels found in Keepsakes, the wall-mounted panels of Collected and the ceramic sculptures of Midden.

While walks along the shoreline provided a respite from the pandemic stresses, the discarded shells provided moments to pause and explore the intricacies of the simple life form with touch. This physical connection proved most calming and revealed why beachcombing is such a popular pastime. Keepsakes comprises a variety of stoneware vessels, both coil and slab built, that attempt to embody the shell’s tactile components while conveying the handmade process. They are presented in a grouping on the gallery floor, deposited and ready for collection.

Once chosen, an object must be curated and displayed to provide its sense of meaning and connection and by imposing a simple grid on a wooden panel, vignettes are created in the Collected series. These pieces illustrate the subtle variations expressed given a restricted glaze palette on individually hand worked, slab-built ceramics.

Like any community bounded by water, Sechelt coastal lands are slowly eroding, not only from the changing climate but also from a growing population and the subsequent increased demands. This fragility was exemplified in the summer of 2021 when a mass die-off of marine shell life littered the foreshore. The Midden series reflects on the immense quantity of dead shellfish that gathered in tidal pools. Once a depository from long domestic occupation along a shoreline, new “middens” suddenly emerged after the heat dome and warming waters. These pieces begin with the hand-worked miniatures and utilize the glazing process to create sculptural pieces stacked layer upon layer, mounted on wooden plinths.

To encourage a new interpretation of beachcombing: collecting not the sea shell but instead man’s litter, loose miniatures will be available, with proceeds going to Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup.

Aileen Vantomme is a ceramic artist currently residing in Lions Bay, BC. She works in stoneware that is heavily manipulated by hand to create forms and textures that are augmented with custom formulated stains and glazes. Groupings of these works highlight the subtle variations found in small batch runs. Aileen earned an undergraduate degree in science from McGill University and pursued graduate studies in architecture at Boston Architectural Center. Though largely self- taught, her techniques have been augmented with coursework in fine art from various art centres and universities across North America.

Aileen’s work is in several private collections in the United States and Canada.