• Paul Maseyck


Polite and soft-spoken, Paul Maseyk looks you earnestly in the eyes when he speaks to you and uses words like “slap dash” and “hunky dory”. He cooks a delicious quiche, makes repairs around the family home, and spends time with his son on the weekends—like all good fathers of the twenty-first century are supposed to. It’s hard to consolidate his personality with his reputation for making pots like the one that is the namesake of this exhibition; A man needs a vice, which he says, “certainly has everything on it including drugs, coffee, sex and cigarettes!”

Curiously, this work—which featured in the important ceramic exhibition Upstarts (2008) curated by Lucy Hammonds at MTG Hawkes Bay—was sold a long time ago and is not in this exhibition at Page Galleries. Instead, Maseyk wistfully recounts it on a figure titled Vice Man as a t-shirt slogan, which reads like a keepsake from a raucous, much relished gig he would no longer want to attend. In a bashful re-invention, the t-shirt also bears a table vice, a tool every handyman needs. Maseyk reflects:

“I was a much younger person perhaps with more of an attitude back then. I have made plenty of risqué work in my time, but society is changing through movements like #Metoo, to the point that certain works of mine might feel uncomfortable for some people. I look back at work I made as a younger person and cringe a little, but I can’t change it and neither would I want to. It was made with all the thoughts, vigour, energy and vices of a younger person at a different time and stage of life, and that is fine.”

The pot, A man needs a vice (2006), was made during a particularly productive few years in Maseyk’s career, when he lived in a former Four Square in Featherston. Watching idiosyncratic characters pass by the large windows, he began to cultivate his own salacious versions of Grecian inspired pottery that saw him take a mature leap from mentors like Barry Brickell and Ross Mitchell-Anyon and find his voice as a maker. It was also during this period that he made the eleven paintings in this new exhibition at Page Galleries, which are being exhibited alongside their ceramic counterparts built seventeen years later, in 2022. This approach has been peppering his exhibitions more consistently over the last several years, and might seem like a new direction, but is actually the artist revealing a more intimate component of his practice:

“I made my first painting when I was at Driving Creek Railway in 1998. I was 24 at the time and I loved the fact that I could paint something and put it up on my wall. Some I even turned into t-shirts. My early paintings actually coincided with my first use of slips and slip trailers to decorate my pottery”.

The eleven paintings in this exhibition are strongly related to Maseyk’s ceramic practice in that they were made using slip-trailers rather than paintbrushes. At first glance they seem less detailed than the paintings on his pots, but look again and you’ll see many of the optical patterns and symbols that have appeared in his work over the years. Silhouettes of the figures themselves are also on countless pots and mugs. Maseyk not only reuses images but also materials. The ceramic figures in this exhibition are made with the original cardboard cut outs used to make the paintings in 2005. Unlike the majority of Maseyk’s three-dimensional work, these are hand built. He explains:

“I roll out a thick slab, and then trace around the cardboard template to cut it out. I then shape it to give it some soft edges and form. The base is banged out of one solid block of clay into a triangular shape, and then once its dried out a little, the base is hollowed out underneath, and then I just shove the figure in the top.”

In a nod to the make do legacy of the New Zealand pottery community, he achieves the texture on the bases of his figures by dropping each one unceremoniously onto a layer of bubble-wrap. With eyes bulging in surprise, the characters are cautious of their seemingly abrupt re-introduction into Maseyk’s oeuvre. Some of their mouths bare teeth while others are tight-lipped or exclaim in regret. As a group, they are tragically comic. With no arms or legs, they resemble gingerbread people stamped out of archetypical cookie-cutters, only to be reincarnated as eccentric personalities that have emerged from Maseyk’s experience and imagination. Scream Man is modelled after Edvard Munch’s over publicised painting and harks back to Maseyk’s fascination with the lives of modernist European painters, while Skull Man is dressed in a checkered outfit featuring the ubiquitous skull that circulates in contemporary art trends. Man and Wife references pots he has made for newlywed friends, while Tug Man wears another of his statement t-shirts. He reveals that,

“Some of the figures have bent into the shape of a banana during the firing process—they’re leaning away from people who want to interact with them. If something turns out like you don’t want it to, you might see it as a fault at first. But with time, these works reminded me about how I can shy away from people too. Sometimes you begin to identify with the flaws in your pieces and see them as charisma”.

Tug Man, whose t-shirt features a tugboat alongside the words “I need a tug”, is bending back most prominently. “It’s probably the one I am a little embarrassed about”, he says in a matter-of-fact way. It’s clear Maseyk isn’t referring to the figure’s bowing. Vice has long been a topic entwined with the artist’s practice, but now—in a subtle way that can only come with experience—he is looking more consciously and deeply to explore human imperfection from a new perspective.


Sian van Dyk is a freelance curator and writer who has worked in galleries and museums across Aotearoa, most recently as curator at The Dowse Art Museum (2013-2022). She has a special interest in the everyday connections people form with craft objects and how this is translated through contemporary practice, which she has written about internationally. In 2015 she was the recipient of the Creative New Zealand Craft/Object Art Curator to Munich award.

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  • Te Whanganui-a-Tara, Wellington, 6011