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SAVAGE LIAISONS: Collaborative Practice on Two Continents 


“Savage Liaisons” is the result of an ongoing artistic collaboration between Karen Ami (Chicago, USA) and Pamela Irving (Melbourne, Australia). Both experiment in sculptural mosaics and drawing and have developed a visual partnership in their respective studios 9,670 miles apart, over the last decade. This show explores aspects of identity through their shared language of storytelling. 

Each have utilised masks forms with classical and unexpected materials in mosaic. Karen Ami and Pamela Irving expand upon their individual practices and ongoing visual discourse, manifested in these mosaics and drawings of masks. Their unique and shared language incorporates handmade ceramic pieces, broken china, byzantine glass, and miscellaneous objects that connect us viscerally to both the past and present worlds. 

Ami and Irving have the same veins of material training and education in art history, ceramics, sculpture and mosaics. Both artists have become outliers and influencers in the modern mosaic movement. Their aesthetic connections- appreciation for fetish objects, underground humour, as well as for example Paul Klee and Picasso- became the basis for an ongoing trade of work conversation and a visual chemistry, culminating in several exhibitions, despite their geographical differences.

Ami utilizes handmade, inscribed broken ceramic pieces in her narratives that use humour and sarcasm to reference ancestry, sexuality and maternity among other subjects. Her use of textured, carved ceramic pieces, are imbued with words and hackneyed marks. Her works come from her long- time love of drawing, underground comics, Pre-Columbian figures and Chicago’s Hairy Who artists. Within the artworks in this series lie fragmented stories, poems and drawings that inform and become the skin to her sculptural figures and tablets.

Irving’s body of work is a “Nonsense Parliament”. Her Ministers having absurd responsibilities, similar to a ‘nonsense Congress’ with Secretaries having ridiculous authority. Her works are formed from strange and often discarded objects and are in the great traditions of say Dr Seuss, or Zippy the Pinhead. Irving distorts real life into a comic façade…a bit like putting on a character mask. Her works are born from absurdity and come from a place of humour and irreverence.


This exhibition showcases Ami and Irving’s powerful voices that break preconceptions of the mosaic art form and display a visual rhetoric that melds shared stories, journeys and the depths of artistic expression. Their Liaisons will continue.

To view exhibit, click here

To read published essay, click here!

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