Susannah Montague’s Cabinet of Curiosity:
Reflections on Life, Death and Renewal
Susannah Montague is a British-Canadian ceramic sculptor who lives on an island off of the wild West Coast of Canada with her husband, two children, and a tutu-wearing terrier.
Montague’s art is as humorous as it is subversive. Her pieces are a daydream in clay, wryly communicating the intransience of the human condition with a wink and a nudge. Stepping into her studio is like discovering an Eighteenth Century Cabinet of Curiosity. Her 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. Her 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.
The artist draws on her deeply personal history to reference fertility and childbirth, using babies, blastocysts and vanitas symbolism to convey a frenetic celebration of the divine comedy of existence. There is a precarious balance in her work between life and death, creation and destruction, innocence and corruption. The artist states, “These characters know much more than they let on.” Each individual sculpture is an island of ideas, a cluster of creative life-force/death-drive, and a barge of becoming.
Montague’s medium is also her message. It’s fitting that her raw material is clay, taken from the earth, lovingly molded, fired, and finally made into deliciously delicate porcelain that will – inevitably – return to the earth. Ashes to ashes. This cyclical perception of time is enhanced by her rediscovery of a forgotten art medium, bursting with the floral blooms of a porcelain past and decorated with all the excesses of a lost century. Even as it is born, each piece has somehow curiously already died away.
Ultimately, viewing a Susannah Montague piece is a bit like falling down a rabbit hole, and feeling in turns terrified and utterly charmed.
“I scoured her site looking for the stories behind these gorgeous/scary pieces, but I believe she’s left it up to our imaginations. At this stage all I really know is that I want to ride around in a row boat with a pink beluga.” – Danielle Krysa, “The Jealous Curator”