LOT 029

1928 -

30 Apples
glazed ceramic sculpture, 1969 - 1970
9 1/2 x 9 1/2 x 13 in, 24.1 x 24.1 x 33 cm

Available for post auction sale. CAD
PRICE: $61,250

Preview at: Heffel Toronto – 13 Hazelton Ave

Acquired from the Artist by a Private Collection, Vancouver
Private Collection, Vancouver, 1970
Private Collection, Vancouver

Sarah Milroy, Gathie Falk: Revelations, McMichael Canadian Art Collection, 2022, a related work titled 14 Apples Glazed reproduced page 51

In her 2018 memoir, significantly titled Apples, etc., Gathie Falk recalled a conversation with her friend, the late art critic and curator Ann Rosenberg. Rosenberg had been looking at Falk’s groundbreaking installation, Home Environment—which debuted in Vancouver in 1968 and which incorporated elements of the surreal, the absurd and the grotesque—and told her that her art was strong and accomplished but not beautiful. Falk took this observation as a challenge. “Beautiful,” she thought. “I’ll show you beautiful!” She immediately launched work on the series of lustrous ceramic sculptures informally known as her “fruit piles.” As with Home Environment, her influences at the time included Funk ceramics, Pop Art, and an impulse amongst avant-garde artists to erase boundaries, not only between disciplines but also between art and life. In the late 1960s, Falk was steering her creative practice towards career-defining projects in mixed-media installation, performance art and ceramic sculpture, each informing—and often interwoven with—the other.

The inspiration for the fruit piles was a pyramid-shaped display of apples Falk had seen in a corner grocery store near her home. As with so many of the forms and images she has spun out of her daily life, the pyramidal stack of apples charged her imagination with its potential for transformation into an arresting and evocative work of art. Throughout her career, she was also captivated by the power inherent in repeating an ordinary form—whether a boot, a cabbage or a kitchen chair—over and over again.

During three prolific years, from 1968 to 1970, Falk created some two dozen piles of life-size ceramic fruit, either apples, oranges or grapefruit. The title of each work was derived, deadpan fashion, from the number and nature of its components: 55 Oranges, 14 Grapefruits or 30 Apples, the work on offer here. Falk threw each individual fruit on a potter’s wheel and then subtly reshaped the hollow form by hand, creating natural-looking bulges, textures and indentations. Individually applied glazes, which in this work range in colour from bright cadmium red to sombre maroon, served to fuse the stacked pieces, creating a structural and metaphorical whole.

All the fruit piles marry the organic to the geometrical and the prosaic to the profoundly symbolic. The apple resonates deeply in Western culture and myth; for Falk, personally, apples are an important and enduring signifier of the life force. Still, the life-affirming nature of the apples at the top of her pyramidal pile is countered by the dark glazes and semi-collapsed fruit at the base, suggestive of rot and decay. Falk’s folding of the cycle of life and death into a seemingly cheery representation of pleasure and sustenance accords with her long-standing interest in depicting opposites, such as light and shadow, presence and absence, mass and insubstantiality. With the large fruit piles, such as 196 Apples, the overall pyramid shape bestows a sense of order and monumentality. With the more modestly scaled 30 Apples, the arrangement suggests a domestic tableau of everyday abundance.

We thank Robin Laurence, an independent writer, critic and curator based in Vancouver, for contributing the above essay. For three decades, she was the visual arts critic for the Georgia Straight and has been a contributing editor of both Border Crossings and Canadian Art. Among her many books and exhibition catalogues, Laurence is the author of Gathie Falk and collaborated with Falk on Apples, etc.: An Artist’s Memoir.

Available for post auction sale. CAD

All prices are in Canadian Dollars

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