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Susannah Montague

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Susannah Montague

In Susannah’s most recent body of work, she uses symbols such as fading flowers, bubbles, skulls and insects to represent death and the transient nature of life. These symbols, interspersed with casts of toys including dolls, helicopters and bunnies, take on a slightly sinister feeling in their modern compositions; each piece of work examining the cycle in our lives asking us to revel in the beauty of the absurd.

Over the last two years, Susannah has been wildly busy with three solo exhibitions. She also exhibited her work at the Seattle Art Fair last summer, and her latest body of work was the subject of a documentary on CBC Arts, where she surrenders her sculptures into the ocean.

Susannah graduated from Emily Carr University in the Sculpture Department and Ontario University of Art and Design where she studied Figurative Sculpture and Anatomy.

Susannah Montague’s ceramic sculpture is represented by Newzones Gallery of Contemporary Art and Elissa Cristall Gallery.

Susannah Montague

My studio is located beside my house on Bowen Island, which is a scenic twenty-minute ferry ride from Vancouver. Living where we do, the light can be incredibly dramatic as the weather moves in and out quickly. I installed over height French glass doors along a full wall of my studio, which floods the room with natural light. On clear afternoons the sunlight warms my back and washes over my sculptures while I work. When the weather turns cold I light the wood stove early in the morning to take the chill off the studio. My two dogs love to lie beside the fire together, keeping me company and serenading me with their snoring. I surround myself with treasured objects that inspire me, and it has been said that stepping into my studio is like discovering an Eighteenth Century Cabinet of Curiosities. Above my studio is a gallery space where I can install my sculptures and photograph and prepare them for packing and shipping.

Susannah Montague

My work is a rethinking of the classical porcelain objects. It is rooted in the 18th century Meissen porcelain figurines. I draw on ceramic’s deep history and research the techniques of the old ceramic factories such as the building methods used by the Dresden, Meissen and Wedgwood factories. I then twist the age-old techniques by manipulating the glazes, using lustres and applying a rare collection of discontinued decals. My art is a collection of shamanistic characters, which imbibe the peculiar, scientific and mythical qualities involved in creation. Rollicking, cherubic figures wearing masks and antlers frolic among symbols of decay, in a world that is equal parts shadowy and lighthearted. My lively sculptures are an amalgam of animal, human and object. Combined, the images evoke a whimsical narrative of folk tales, childhood fantasies, dreams and nightmares.

Susannah Montague

Expressing myself through creativity has always been a vital part of my life. When my family emigrated from Scotland to Canada, we moved around a lot, which was perhaps a little unsettling for a young girl with a funny accent in a new country. In every new home we moved to, I would find myself a hideaway in some unused space where I could lose myself in a world of creativity. In some ways, I suppose I am still doing this in my studio. The isolation of island living allows me to escape the mendacity of reality and elevate me to a magical, creative sphere wherein everything is possible through the medium of sculpture.

“Are you always an artist even when you are not making art?” I didn’t feel like I was an artist when I was mothering my young twins. I look back now and know that indeed I was, even though my time was devoted to childcare, I still had the soul of an artist and the eyes, and I was always evolving and developing as a creative.

I used to work in the sculpture department in the film industry, which taught me how to build courageously and push through the fear of failing. With so much emphasis being placed on time and money, there simply wasn’t any room for thinking, “I can’t do this”. I learned to improvise solutions on the fly, to problem solve while under pressure and to stay calm during a crisis or as deadlines approached. Now, when I catch myself stalling on a sculpture because of fear, I know to push through the trepidations and possibilities of failure that’s holding me back. Even a piece riddled with cracks and imperfections can become the creative catalyst that can change my intention and aspect over time.

Susannah Montague

Art is my life, and motherhood has become a fundamental part of my life and my art. I took body castings of my children and used them to create my large “Ghost” sculptures in my recent solo show, “Of Things I Can’t Unthink”. I consider this piece to be my biggest accomplishment to date. Sculpting it was challenging, as each ghost had to be built in multiple sections in order to fit in my largest kiln. The breath is linked together like jewelry, and I did not know if my design would work until I attempted installing it at the gallery before the opening day. It all came together seamlessly, and I feel proud of this ghostly, ceramic flower breathing piece. As Danielle Krysa (the Jealous Curator) said in a podcast we did together, “People who cast their children in the name of art, well, you know they mean business.”

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy”

— JALAL AD-DIN RUMI

“Janus”, the dual-headed figures take their inspiration from Janus, the god of all beginnings and ends, of the future and the past. The duality of Janus helps to convey my personal duality; the balancing of artistic creativity with motherhood. Thus, ceramic art production and human production express both my artistic and humanistic essence. The red and white polka dot balls in the tiny, innocent hands represent at once passion and purity. When my twins were tiny, I bought them red polka dot balls to play with, but also for me, because I loved how beautiful they looked lying on the green grass. Motherhood is a fundamental part of my life and my art. The birth of my twins has both increased the complexity of my work and intensified my perspective.

Susannah Montague

I believe it is in the unknown and the failures whereby innovation lies. I am always striving to push myself through my fear to try new things and test the boundaries of ceramic rules. 

The inspiration for my work often comes from things in life that have startled me, shocked me or made me cry. When this happens, and I am deeply touched by something, I feel this need to get the sculpture built before time dilutes the fervour stirring within me, prompting me to transfer my passion into the clay piece. Often, it isn’t until the piece is completed though, that the sculpture finally explains itself back to me.

I am also constantly inspired by nature with all its imperfect beauty and impermanence. I am presently making maquettes of giant dried artichokes from my garden. I love their exotic shape, size and beautiful blue-purple bloom and have been sculpting them in my studio. Eventually, I would love to build giant ones for a show.

How I make my art and what my art is about is a lifelong exploratory process, and I am always learning and asking new questions about what I make, how I make it and why. 

Ultimately, viewing my pieces is a bit like falling down a rabbit hole, and feeling in turns terrified and utterly charmed. There is a precarious balance in my work between life and death, creation and destruction, innocence and corruption.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

PRIZED ANTIQUE VICTORIAN PULL TOY HORSE
I found this pre-1900s pull toy tucked away in the back of a Vancouver antique shop covered in dust. When I saw his glass eyes catch the light I knew I had to take care of this toy and give it a new life. Over the years his real hair had been rubbed off, leather reins ripped, and his saddle had gone missing. I hand sewed a cashmere saddle blanket and built a porcelain mask with a gold unicorn horn and a new Baroque porcelain saddle with gold wings. The horse transformed from a broken dejected Victorian pull toy to a beautiful masked unicorn/pegasus. When I go through difficult times in my life, I build something in clay, in an effort to “turn a broken heart into art”. As I lose myself into the subtleness of clay, I find myself loosening my grip on reality and allow myself to drift into an almost fictional world, where something magical can occur. This piece represents to me the magic that clay does for my soul.

Susannah Montague

Susannah Montague

In Susannah’s most recent body of work, she uses symbols such as fading flowers, bubbles, skulls and insects to represent death and the transient nature of life. These symbols, interspersed with casts of toys including dolls, helicopters and bunnies, take on a slightly sinister feeling in their modern compositions; each piece of work examining the cycle in our lives asking us to revel in the beauty of the absurd.

Over the last two years, Susannah has been wildly busy with three solo exhibitions. She also exhibited her work at the Seattle Art Fair last summer, and her latest body of work was the subject of a documentary on CBC Arts, where she surrenders her sculptures into the ocean.

Susannah graduated from Emily Carr University in the Sculpture Department and Ontario University of Art and Design where she studied Figurative Sculpture and Anatomy.

Susannah Montague’s ceramic sculpture is represented by Newzones Gallery of Contemporary Art and Elissa Cristall Gallery.

Susannah Montague

My studio is located beside my house on Bowen Island, which is a scenic twenty-minute ferry ride from Vancouver. Living where we do, the light can be incredibly dramatic as the weather moves in and out quickly. I installed over height French glass doors along a full wall of my studio, which floods the room with natural light. On clear afternoons the sunlight warms my back and washes over my sculptures while I work. When the weather turns cold I light the wood stove early in the morning to take the chill off the studio. My two dogs love to lie beside the fire together, keeping me company and serenading me with their snoring. I surround myself with treasured objects that inspire me, and it has been said that stepping into my studio is like discovering an Eighteenth Century Cabinet of Curiosities. Above my studio is a gallery space where I can install my sculptures and photograph and prepare them for packing and shipping.

Susannah Montague

My work is a rethinking of the classical porcelain objects. It is rooted in the 18th century Meissen porcelain figurines. I draw on ceramic’s deep history and research the techniques of the old ceramic factories such as the building methods used by the Dresden, Meissen and Wedgwood factories. I then twist the age-old techniques by manipulating the glazes, using lustres and applying a rare collection of discontinued decals. My art is a collection of shamanistic characters, which imbibe the peculiar, scientific and mythical qualities involved in creation. Rollicking, cherubic figures wearing masks and antlers frolic among symbols of decay, in a world that is equal parts shadowy and lighthearted. My lively sculptures are an amalgam of animal, human and object. Combined, the images evoke a whimsical narrative of folk tales, childhood fantasies, dreams and nightmares.

Susannah Montague

Expressing myself through creativity has always been a vital part of my life. When my family emigrated from Scotland to Canada, we moved around a lot, which was perhaps a little unsettling for a young girl with a funny accent in a new country. In every new home we moved to, I would find myself a hideaway in some unused space where I could lose myself in a world of creativity. In some ways, I suppose I am still doing this in my studio. The isolation of island living allows me to escape the mendacity of reality and elevate me to a magical, creative sphere wherein everything is possible through the medium of sculpture.

“Are you always an artist even when you are not making art?” I didn’t feel like I was an artist when I was mothering my young twins. I look back now and know that indeed I was, even though my time was devoted to childcare, I still had the soul of an artist and the eyes, and I was always evolving and developing as a creative.

I used to work in the sculpture department in the film industry, which taught me how to build courageously and push through the fear of failing. With so much emphasis being placed on time and money, there simply wasn’t any room for thinking, “I can’t do this”. I learned to improvise solutions on the fly, to problem solve while under pressure and to stay calm during a crisis or as deadlines approached. Now, when I catch myself stalling on a sculpture because of fear, I know to push through the trepidations and possibilities of failure that’s holding me back. Even a piece riddled with cracks and imperfections can become the creative catalyst that can change my intention and aspect over time.

Susannah Montague

Art is my life, and motherhood has become a fundamental part of my life and my art. I took body castings of my children and used them to create my large “Ghost” sculptures in my recent solo show, “Of Things I Can’t Unthink”. I consider this piece to be my biggest accomplishment to date. Sculpting it was challenging, as each ghost had to be built in multiple sections in order to fit in my largest kiln. The breath is linked together like jewelry, and I did not know if my design would work until I attempted installing it at the gallery before the opening day. It all came together seamlessly, and I feel proud of this ghostly, ceramic flower breathing piece. As Danielle Krysa (the Jealous Curator) said in a podcast we did together, “People who cast their children in the name of art, well, you know they mean business.”

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy”

— JALAL AD-DIN RUMI

“Janus”, the dual-headed figures take their inspiration from Janus, the god of all beginnings and ends, of the future and the past. The duality of Janus helps to convey my personal duality; the balancing of artistic creativity with motherhood. Thus, ceramic art production and human production express both my artistic and humanistic essence. The red and white polka dot balls in the tiny, innocent hands represent at once passion and purity. When my twins were tiny, I bought them red polka dot balls to play with, but also for me, because I loved how beautiful they looked lying on the green grass. Motherhood is a fundamental part of my life and my art. The birth of my twins has both increased the complexity of my work and intensified my perspective.

Susannah Montague

I believe it is in the unknown and the failures whereby innovation lies. I am always striving to push myself through my fear to try new things and test the boundaries of ceramic rules. 

The inspiration for my work often comes from things in life that have startled me, shocked me or made me cry. When this happens, and I am deeply touched by something, I feel this need to get the sculpture built before time dilutes the fervour stirring within me, prompting me to transfer my passion into the clay piece. Often, it isn’t until the piece is completed though, that the sculpture finally explains itself back to me.

I am also constantly inspired by nature with all its imperfect beauty and impermanence. I am presently making maquettes of giant dried artichokes from my garden. I love their exotic shape, size and beautiful blue-purple bloom and have been sculpting them in my studio. Eventually, I would love to build giant ones for a show.

How I make my art and what my art is about is a lifelong exploratory process, and I am always learning and asking new questions about what I make, how I make it and why. 

Ultimately, viewing my pieces is a bit like falling down a rabbit hole, and feeling in turns terrified and utterly charmed. There is a precarious balance in my work between life and death, creation and destruction, innocence and corruption.

“You must have chaos within you to give birth to a dancing star.”

— Friedrich Nietzsche

PRIZED ANTIQUE VICTORIAN PULL TOY HORSE
I found this pre-1900s pull toy tucked away in the back of a Vancouver antique shop covered in dust. When I saw his glass eyes catch the light I knew I had to take care of this toy and give it a new life. Over the years his real hair had been rubbed off, leather reins ripped, and his saddle had gone missing. I hand sewed a cashmere saddle blanket and built a porcelain mask with a gold unicorn horn and a new Baroque porcelain saddle with gold wings. The horse transformed from a broken dejected Victorian pull toy to a beautiful masked unicorn/pegasus. When I go through difficult times in my life, I build something in clay, in an effort to “turn a broken heart into art”. As I lose myself into the subtleness of clay, I find myself loosening my grip on reality and allow myself to drift into an almost fictional world, where something magical can occur. This piece represents to me the magic that clay does for my soul.

Susannah Montague