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Newfoundland artist Michael Flaherty explores The Grey Islands

July 24, 2012

On Thursday, August 2, at 7 p.m., ceramic artist Michael Flaherty will present an artist's talk at the Confederation Centre Art Gallery on his new exhibition The Grey Islands. This presentation, part of the Gallery's weekly ArtTalk series, tells the story of the artist's three-month sojourn on a small abandoned island off the Northern Peninsula of Newfoundland. Admission is free and the public is invited to attend.

The exhibition, curated by Pan Wendt, combines a number of elements, including photographic and video documentation of the artist's time in a "resettled community" - The Grey Islands. The inhabitants were moved off this island as part of a government program that moved over 28,000 Newfoundlanders out of isolated outports. Large numbers of caribou were also moved to the island, earlier in its history, and caribou antlers are presented in this exhibit. The ceramic-based works fuse handmade antlers with pottery fragments made to represent shards from the abandoned town of French Cove. These pieces were then painted in classic blue and white decorative patterns.
"I made the pieces to be seductive and beautiful objects, and I hope that people find them as such," says Flaherty. "I also made them to be evocative of an historical feeling or connection to local culture and our past."
The islands have since been taken over by nature, but Flaherty wanted to enact a human intervention of his own, a kind of ritual and conceptual ‘firing' of the island, by building an ‘inside-out' outdoor kiln. The kiln required considerable labour to transport to the Island and build, and Flaherty has documented this work in several videos and photographs. He will also create a replica of this work in the gallery out of nearly 500 fire bricks lent by P.E.I. potters.
"This exhibition will have broad appeal to those interested in ceramics and craft generally" says Kevin Rice, gallery director. "While the artist is engaged with contemporary art and its conceptual dimension he is also telling two unique stories - one of his time on the remote and beautiful Grey Islands and another of a community from the past."
Flaherty, who was long-listed for the prestigious Sobey Art Award in 2011, studied ceramics at the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design, and received his Masters of Fine Arts from the University of Regina. He currently works as sculpture technician at Memorial University's Grenfell Campus in Corner Brook.

Michael Flaherty: The Grey Islands is part of the Emerging Artists Series, supported by the RBC Foundation. The Grey Islands opens August 4 in the Confederation Centre Art Gallery and runs until December 23.

Photo Cutline:
1907-1884. Michael Flaherty. White earthenware, terra sigillata, cobalt sulfate, underglaze, glaze. 2012. 59 x 23 x 15 cm. Courtesy of the