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Canadian Ceramic Relief Murals: Studio Craft and Architecture – A Case Study of the Sturdy-Stone Centre Murals, 1975-1983


Canadian Ceramic Relief Murals: Studio Craft and Architecture – A Case Study of the Sturdy-Stone Centre Murals, 1975-1983

Surette, Susan (2014) Canadian Ceramic Relief Murals: Studio Craft and Architecture – A Case Study of the Sturdy-Stone Centre Murals, 1975-1983. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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The modernist Sturdy-Stone Centre’s monumental ceramic mural project is the subject of this case study that examines its agency. Initiated in 1975 by the Saskatchewan government for their new Saskatoon office building it was commissioned in two stages and completed by 1983. Six designer/makers executed two exterior and six interior relief murals in a variety of styles, making this the largest and arguably most eclectic ensemble created by studio ceramicists for any building in Canada. Despite local interest at the time of its reception this remarkable project has remained at the periphery of art, ceramic, craft, and architectural discourses. To address the agency of these murals throughout their lives this study adopts an interdisciplinary approach that promotes their integration into architectural, ceramic, sculpture, and craft histories. It argues the decorative and ornamental aspects of these murals transmit intellectual content through their sensuality and visual and material delight.
The first section, “A Social and Material Complex,” presents an overview of the development of this unique project as group formations, methodologically using a combination of sociology and material culture. These groups comprise the government with its attendant political and social agendas, arts and crafts organizations and their aesthetic concerns, and the physical unit created by the building and the murals. A particular concern is the implication of ceramics as the designated mural material.
The second section, “The Lives of the Murals,” looks at the biography of each mural, arguing they emerged from and contributed to political and cultural ideologies active in Saskatchewan, including discourses of multiculturalism and socialism. Each chapter combines the biographies of the murals with those of their makers, from their commissioning to their installation. An important aspect in each discussion is the co-constitution of the murals and their makers, as suggested by a postphenomenological approach. This involves taking into account a variety of group formations involving, among other things, materials, technology, tools, architectural spaces, humans, and ideas. As agents these murals promote the professionalism of ceramic practices and dialogically address issues touching the rural and urban, local and global, vernacular and modern, and fine art and folk craft.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Surette, Susan
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Art History
Date:28 August 2014
Thesis Supervisor(s):Cheasley Paterson, Elaine
ID Code:979031
Deposited On:19 Nov 2014 14:59
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:48
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