Fun games and haute couture

Sam Varian's remarkable and imaginative ceramic sculpture Peter.

Local Mount Macedon artist Sam Varian is part of the recently opened Imagination exhibition at Cascade Art Gallery in Maldon.

Varian is presenting new ceramic sculpture, the Candide Series – Fun Games and Haute Couture.

Voltaire created the initially deluded character Candide, who after numerous catastrophes concluded that life was best lived toiling the soil, being with nature and ‘cultivating your garden’.

To explore Voltaire’s themes, Varian looked at the lunacy of things, of our contradictions and obsession with wealth in the pursuit of happiness.

“I began my series by building critically endangered species, the black rhinoceros (which is grey) and the African forest elephant, and have used metaphors of frivolity and indulgence, the playing of games and mucking about in horrendously expensive fancy dress to explore the plight of their existence,” the artist said.

“Since Douglas Adams of Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy fame, highlighted the plight of endangered species in Last Chance to See in 1990, they continue to be threatened by the illogical demand for horns and tusks and the destruction of their environment.

“All my works are given human eyes, or more precisely green eyes like mine, to reinforce the notion that we are all connected in life, that what we do to one we do to the other.

“Sometimes things just aren’t funny and seem bleak, but the aim of my practice is that despite all this, I try to find the humour and the beauty in things and create work that can provide some solace in the chaos.”

Ceramics is a constant source of wonder for Varian and there is always the element of not knowing how the form and glaze will survive in the kiln – after hours of hard work it can end up in a skip! One rhinoceros blew his feet off and fused onto another, one had his extremities fall off, and some required numerous firings to be ready for their debut in the Cascade Art Gallery. It is a scientifically intuitive artform, full of contradictions, like life.

Imagination exhibition is open 10am to 5pm, Thursday to Sunday until May 26.

Varian is exhibiting alongside renowned artist Dean Bowen, Jan Palethorpe and Jeff Gardner. All enquiries to 0408 844 152.

Cascade Art Gallery is in the old Gothic Revival church at 1A Fountain Street Maldon.