Charmaine Haines
Selected Works

"Charmaine Haines makes icons that are derived from medieval forms. She was inspired to create these elaborate jewel-like objects when she visited the Russian Christian Art Exhibition in Germany in 1988. Haines responded to the work on the exhibition, "not spiritually, but formally". It was "the gilt and all the decoration" that fired her creativity. The mysticism of the old Christian art filtered through to her only later.

Working within the realm of figurative clay, Haines uses both abstract and stylised symbols and motives to embellish both her sculptural and utility forms.
Vessels are thrown and altered incorporating sculptural elements and semi-relief. Coloured stains and natural oxide washes are used to further exemplify the manipulative and expressive quality of the clay surface, including carving and textures showing a strong sense of surface pattern.

Haines says that her initial exposure to icons was later supplemented by the perusal of books on medieval art. She allows the visual material to be digested before reworking it. Her approach to her subject relies largely on a spontaneous gestural treatment of the material. Gesture in Haines's case is not derived from a conscious use of the mark as an expressive tool, but springs rather from her direct approach to the clay. Unlike many ceramicists, who see the process of working in clay as a slow and disciplined procedure, Haines is seduced by the immediacy of the material. She works the clay directly and quickly; it responds and reflects her excitement. She presses, adds and carves in order to destroy flatness and activate the surface with low relief detail. Colours and gilt lustre area added in subsequent firings. The final objects are richly decorative."

Even though much of her source of inspiration is medieval, Haines's work is most aptly described as baroque. Her icons are covered in an exuberant free-form detail of twirls, spirals and curlicues. In its irreverence for its source, and in the richly exaggerated way that Haines has handled her material, her work is almost essentially Post-Modernist. She has filtered the style of a previous age through a late twentieth century sensibility. A hint of ironic comment is inherent in the freedom with which she has treated the original religious subject matter.

The ceramic pieces included in the 'Etched in Clay' series of work, embraces the artist's continued fascination for Ancient Cultures, African Artifacts and Medieval Iconic Art. The work reflects the artists intention to 'filter the style of a previous age through a 21st Century sensibility'.