Feat of Clay

From the beginning, the drawings and paintings of Saskatchewan-based artist Zachari Logan had an intimate connection to one another. On the basis of works like the “Eunuch Tapestries” (which were on exhibition from February to May this year at the Leslie-Lohman Museum of Gay and Lesbian Art in New York), he had established a reputation as a meticulous and ambitious draughtsman. His drawn tapestries were an erotic reinhabitation of the woven “Unicorn Tapestries” at The Cloisters museum.

Zachari Logan, Fountain 1, 2013—ongoing, hand-built clay body, 4 x 4 x 4.5 feet. Images courtesy the artist.

All his work returns to a pair of central concerns: his own body and the ditch, a very particular feature of the prairie landscape. What he finds attractive about the ditch are the plants and grasses that grow in its in-between terrain. He sees parallels between that liminality and queer space; in his version of the garden’s genesis, the body is made space and then the space is made flesh.

He sustained his bodily interest in Fountain 1, the large ceramic fountain he made for an exhibition at the Illingworth Kerr Gallery in Calgary in 2013. He wanted the unpainted clay to hint at “brittle bone matter,” and the way he made the hundreds of flowers that festoon the base of the fountain connects back to his drawing. Everything in the sculpture is hand built and everything comes out of observation, which is exactly the methodology he uses to compose his drawings. “There is a flatness to ceramics when you don’t add colour,” he says, “so the fountain acts like my monochromatic drawings.” When he does add colour, as in his prickly, undulating, green Tea-Pot, from Overgrown Series, Dandy-lion, Logan sees the object drawing back to his interstitial ditches. Nature and culture wind round one another with the persistence of weeds.

Fountain 1, 2013, detail—ongoing, hand-built clay body, 4 x 4 x 4.5 feet. Images courtesy the artist.

He plans to continue the catalytic relationship between his drawing and his excursions into ceramics. “This is definitely just the beginning,” he says from New York, where he is making work during a two-month long residency for his next exhibition in Vienna. “The more projects I do in ceramics, the more I want to jump back into my drawings. The way the mediums reinforce one another is making this a very exciting time.”

Tea-Pot, 2014, hand-built painted clay body, 6 x 6 x 12 inches.

Everywhere in his artful world, other art is at play. He finds museums generative spaces; seeing work in Vienna and in the Acropolis Museum in Athens has been catalytic, and it was an exhibition of watercolours from the collection of the Musée d’Orsay that made him first think about reintroducing colour into his own work.

For all its elegance, his hand-drawn and sculpted world has about it a sense of loss. When you deal with the body, you are inescapably dealing with mortality and the inexorable passage of time. Logan has made six clay Purple Carnations. They come from a poem by Arthur Rimbaud in which the anus is given a flowery name. The sculptures, a reminder of life’s impermanence, are simultaneously beautiful and poignant. They are the single flower that stands as an emblem for the whole bouquet of Zachari Logan’s compelling bodies of work. ❚

Purple Carnations, after Rimbaud, 2014, hand-painted, hand-built clay body