Discovering Tanja Stark’s work, the Sublime Vessels currently exhibited at Gallery 61, Kelvin Grove in a perfect harmony with the oceanic dreamscapes of John Carozza is to experience the joy of a vision made tangible, executed with a sensibility that effortlessly harmonise sculptural virtuosity and restraint. The Vessels superbly original, eerily familiar, ancient and new, radiate a tangible charisma teasing the viewer out of thought towards a more instinctive response, for this viewer it was a sense of wonder.
Initially I was reminded of frozen music the designs simulate an acoustic space, undulating lines of sound flowing from some rarified dimension. Then one might notice the perfectly proportioned bases, repeatedly carinated echoing an effect prized by the Minoans, yet layered and counterpoised in a way that suggests the kinetic energies Boccioni gave to futurism.
In time the artful balance of base and the extension becomes apparent , the entirety sustained by elegant gliding lines that turn and fold revealing carefully defined edges that create their own unique effects, whether static or dynamic the viewer free to decide.
For some viewers they were evocative of boats and for some a primal evocation of woman, the range of responses that might be enlivened by the spell of an archetypal form. Archetypes have a tendency to create multiplicity of interpretative responses, perhaps because they insist on maintaining a distance from the present. Fundamental form stripped of all things extraneous, allowing the viewer to explore of associations, to meditate on their capacity for resonance.
Naturally the presence of these refined shapes ethereally spiralling into space remind us of the relationship between the spiritual and the artefact.
The use of Vessels in the enactment of the Sacred is well known; lamps illuminating darkness, boats solemnly voyaging to the afterlife , as vases holding wine for Thoth pacing the white corridors of his lunar mansion, and our own bodies, the vessel for the soul.
The supreme metaphor is woman as the vessel of all human life, the place that is passed through at birth and consequently the place that inaugurates death. We are aware of it and yet it is unknowable, the flow of life always beyond conscious control, the sublime power of our need to create and nurture life , the very moment of orgasm rippling through time, a surrender to the alterity of the senses, before words, before artifacts. An archetypal event perhaps.
These beautifully wrought works achieve a rare a synthesis of formal clarity and evocative mystery , like all perfect things they remain elusive while demanding to be looked at. This was an encounter with something special, Vessels as timeless as music from a seashell calling us back to a place beyond memory and yet somehow recalled.