Arbor Vitae is a body of work resulting from an intensive two years of research including artist’s residencies in Jingdezhen, China, exploring fabric formwork at the University of Manitoba’s Centre for Architectural Structures and Technology (CAST), and experimenting with fabrication technologies at AssentWorks makerspace in Winnipeg. This new work advances my investigations of natural forms pitted against artificial construction and surfaces separated from and reintegrated with forms. The large-scale porcelain sculptures

and installations in Arbor Vitae negotiate the relationship between the natural and the fabricated, the austere and the embellished, growth and decay, loss and recovery.

Along with more traditional processes such as slip casting, press moulding, and hand building, new and experimental technologies, including fabric-formed mould-making, vacuum forming, and laser marking, are integral to creating the three major components that make up the exhibition.

Arbor Vitae was exhibited at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery in Waterloo, Ontario, from January 18 to March 15, 2015, at Actual Contemporary in Winnipeg, Manitoba, from January 22 to March 19, 2016, at the Disjecta Contemporary Art Center in Portland, Oregon, from March 4 to April 1, 2017, and at the Moose Jaw Museum and Art Gallery in Saskatchewan, from May 28 to August 26, 2018.

In her introduction to the catalogue essay, Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery curator Sheila McMath states, “Arbor Vitae brings to mind images of ancient Greek architecture like the Acropolis and the Parthenon, specifically resembling the structural columns of buildings that remain long after the walls have fallen away. The stark, white, unglazed porcelain is elegant and beautiful and Arbor Vitae’s organic shapes and verticality have remarkable monumental presence within the Gallery’s architecture. . . . Nickel’s reference to ruins, caused by both humans and natural phenomena, is central to her current work and will certainly continue to be developed in future work.”

Exhibition at the Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery

Waterloo, Ontario, 2015

Exhibition at Actual Contemporary

Winnipeg, Manitoba, 2016

The artist gratefully acknowledges the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the City of Winnipeg through the Winnipeg Arts Council, and the University of Manitoba. All photographs by Michael Zajac.