The first time Allan Collier came across the work of local ceramic artists Jan and Helga Grove was more than two decades ago.
Collier was at his sister in-law’s house when he noticed a lamp with unique colours. The lamp was undecorated and had a simple, well-proportioned vase-like shape with a copper-green base — which caught Collier’s eye.
“That’s maybe what attracted me to it, it was well-proportioned, the base and the shade were compatible,” Collier said. “There was something about the colour, it was a copper green, cobalt blue and brown.”
Now, roughly 25 years later, Collier is curating an exhibit showcasing the work of the Grove’s at the Art Gallery of Greater Victoria later this month.
Life with Clay: Pottery and Sculpture by Jan and Helga Grove includes 100 pieces of the couple’s work, such as 60 pieces of pottery and 40 sculptures with bright colours and experimental matte glazes, many of which are decorated with geometric and abstract designs.
The exhibit will also include photographs, a 128-page catalogue and other historical materials such as newspaper clippings, documenting the Grove’s 40-year artistic career.
Originally born in Germany, both Jan and Helga apprenticed under Jan’s parents and worked in Lübeck, Germany in the late 1940s and 1950s. The two fell in love and married in 1952. Shortly after, the couple moved to Turkey and lived in Istanbul for five years, where Jan taught ceramic design, before coming to Canada in 1965. Beginning in 1966, they operated studios in Colwood and Metchosin, producing hundreds of pieces of art, before eventually retiring in 2009.
The couple hand-picked the pieces in the exhibit, some of which were from their early days when they trained in Germany and pieces from Jan’s time teaching in Turkey, as well as more recent examples of their art.
One of the most interesting pieces that will be on display as part of the exhibit is a double-necked jug they made in 1966, in collaboration with each other. Jan crafted the jug, while Helga did the decoration.
“It’s a really exquisite example of their work . . . (The exhibit) is quite an extensive retrospective of their work,” said Collier, adding this is a huge exhibit for the couple, who have spent the past year putting it together.
“They’re distinguished because of their very, very extensive German training, experience teaching and the volume of their work that they did over such a long time. The quality of their work is exceptional. They’re really among the best in Canada . . . They’re very important artists in the city.”
Life with Clay: Pottery and Sculpture by Jan and Helga Grove opens Jan. 21 and runs until May 28 at the art gallery’s Pollard Gallery. For more information visit aggv.ca.