Gender and Eco-Feminism: Rita Tasker

By Peter, Judy | Ceramics Art & Perception, March 2013 | Go to article overview

Gender and Eco-Feminism: Rita Tasker


Peter, Judy, Ceramics Art & Perception


THE ORIGIN OF RITA TASKER'S INFLUENCES AND INSPIRATION for her creative works lie in the history of ceramics and are transformed by the influence of contemporary ceramics. The reintroduction of ornamental decorations on contemporary ceramic vessels was critical to her creative production. The commonality of the heating processes specific to the ceramics discipline propelled her to investigate the ceramics techniques of lustre, gilding and the metal mounting of ceramic vessels (Tasker 2001:19). At the time of her master degree studies, Tasker's research contributed to innovative research in the field of ceramics in terms of the inclusion of metal elements on ceramic vessels.

Tasker, like many contemporary artists in South Africa, embarked on community-based initiatives while employed at Vaal University of Technology. Voluntary service and clay workshops are carried out weekly at Groenpunt Correctional Services in Vereeniging. Tasker is also an accomplished and prolific artist who had several solo and two-person exhibitions in Durban, Johannesburg and Bloemfontein. Her prolific creative productions were also showcased in numerous group exhibitions in the same cities. Public collections of Tasker's artwork can be found in the Johannesburg Art Gallery, Cape Town National Gallery, Iziko and the Corobrick Collection: Johannesburg College of Education and Lindlar Collection.

She has extended her participation and contributions to the public domain in the form of public lectures and workshops in community-based organisations such as the Vereeniging Society of Social Workers, Art Therapy Society of SA and the South African Ceramic Society and, in the discipline specific professional body, that is, the Crafts Council of South Africa.

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Through the years, Tasker's ceramics output was informed by the history of the discipline. Her Western education exposed her to Western European and British traditions and cultural practices in the ceramics domain. This is evident in her graduate research, which focused on the "coalescence between metal and ceramic vessels" (Tasker 2001:20). Tasker examined the historical overview of the inclusion of metal in ceramic vessel forms in Western ceramics practices. She investigated the crafts of ceramics and metalwork and the relationship between them within a Western paradigm. The creative processes involved in the production of vessels by Tasker signify a leaning towards a British European identity and cultural heritage (Tasker 2001:1-19).

Tasker can be classified as a white English-speaking South African who has retained her sense of individualism (Salusbury & Foster 2004:93), even though she has resided in an Afrikaner-dominated cultural community for 20 years. No references are made to the South African cultural practices or to the political transformation during the past 10 years, in Tasker's vessels or in the creative processes involved (Tasker 2009b). She does, however, interrogate the inherent cultural practices of male dominance in the cultural and political arenas.

Historically, ornamental ceramic vessels served specific utilitarian functions. The need for ornamentation on ceramic vessels not only revealed the desire to add unnecessary decorative surfaces to utilitarian vessels, but also the desire to create aesthetically pleasing art forms, surface patterns and design (Tasker 2001:68; 2005). Tasker addresses the notion of ceramic vessels that were produced as containers of various sizes and for divergent functions and explores the surface embellishment, as apparent in Trophy to a Heroine and Others Unknown. The neglected voices and histories of women were the focus of feminist artists in the 1970s. The universal and patriarchal oppression of women underpins the making of Trophy to a Heroine and Others Unknown. Tasker is more concerned with the technical and functional aspects of her vessels in Trophy to a Heroine and Others Unknown. …

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