Pot Heads

Right now there are three of the best ceramic exhibitions we've seen in an age gracing the hallowed exhibition spaces of Craft. Seriously great exhibitions. Shows that have surprised us, moved us and surpassed our expectations on many levels. We're pretty amazed, and as Craft moves from artist initiated exhibitions to curated shows for 2015, the three highly individual voices of Kate Jones, Sarah O'Sullivan and Gerry Wedd sing loud and clear. Considered alongside the new school naive 'wonk' of the hand-built ceramic works by Paradise Structures on show in the Craft window, you have what could probably be described as a perfect primer delivering the incredible diversity of contemporary ceramic practice in Australia.  


The term 'hotly anticipated' doesn't even come close to the way Ramona's been feeling about this show. Entitled Being, this new collection of large scale slab built ceramic pots builds upon the aesthetics, construction, techniques and conceptual framing showcased in Kates exhibition practice over the past two years and concentrates specifically upon the 'spaces' between two dimensional painting and sculpture. 

Kate says of her work  "The combination of painted surface and sculptural form creates an ambiguity that questions assumptions about both genres. this allows my work to sit in a liminal space that affords a realm of possibility in which new configurations of ideas and relations can occur." The resulting works within this show are a testament to the hours of investigation and skillfull restraint of Kate's painting technique. There is a definitive ambiguity in the pieces -  the mark making and brush strokes are intimately connected with contemporary abstract art, the scale and form of the sculptures lends itself to abstracted industrial architecture, while the drips and splashes immediately bring graf tagging to mind.

The scale of these works is impressive, both technically and literally. Some fold and bend like fabric sacks, while others stand upright at ungainly angles like totems and tree trunks. Their solidity is either softened by the layered of pastel colour washes or given a menacing bulk with dark paint and glossy glazes. These paintings in the round are like landscapes with each aspect offering a different perspective to the viewer. Glorious stuff.


This exhibition has provided us with one of our biggest surprises for the year so far. Deep and rich with historical references, masterful in its technique, sharply clever in concept and heady with nostalgia the show has completely blown us away. Sarah's work is an ongoing investigation of how "decoration is used in domestic ceramics to navigate relationships between people, and the natural Australian environment" 

Vestige is a brilliant articulation of these themes that elicits an intensely personal response from the viewer. Regular readers know that we're both keen ceramic collectors with shelves and mantles covered with coveted objects made by our favourite makers that say as much about us as they do about the maker. Ramona's collection reflects her deep love of poetry and the many hues of blue, while mine is full of Japanese earthenware and mid-century west german pottery.

Both of us however are united in our love of the undisputed king of decorative ceramics, Wedgewood. And its here in the pocket of the traditionally coloured clay where Sarah's years of technical and historical investigation in decorative textiles intersect with our own personal stories. I'm doubly invested: having inherited my grandmothers vast collection and with a distant ancestor who worked there as potter. However nearly everyone anyone can draw familial links with the special display objects  that were only used looking or for 'good'. That this show so closely referenced our own family histories and then played them out on wall-mounted, plinth-white furniture against a perfect museum grey literally took our breath way. Clever, clear and moving.


I'm gonna come straight out and call myself a Weddophile. Gerry's keen observations, wry wit, humble leanings and excellent musical tastes are right up my alley. The fact that he's also a brilliant illustrator,super skilled clay maven and Delft aficionado is icing on the proverbial cake.

In his new show Pot Culture he's pretty much written a ceramic love letter to the Melbourne Music Mafia, connecting the dots from Paul Kelly (see what I did there) to the Drones in a commemorative collection of decorated plates that charts the family tree from Hank Williams, to Evil Graham Lee (who in a little known MMM fact actually played pedal steel on KLF's album Chill Out - see I really am a music geek).

Name checking lyrics from the Underground Lovers and Black Eyed Susans in hand-carved and hand painted letters he draws pertinent parallels between the crafting of music and objects. His vessel based documentation of the drug dependant decline of so many great talents links back to the urn storytelling of ancient Greece (and maybe the Old Greek) in a perfectly pitched rendition of 'happy sad'. This show is SO close to my heart... Dad played alongside The Loved Ones in the garage days of 1960's Australia and I fulfilled a countdown fueled childhood dream by working at INpress mag for just over a decade throughout the 90's, before coming back to craft. Nostalgia overload wrapped up pop pun genius.


Melbourne based sibling collaborators Paradise Structures have somehow managed to merge Anthony Robbins motivational language with basketball culture AND toilet humour in their new show Keep Flushin'.

Drawing connections between everyday actions and sporting achievements they look at how we might re-position daily acts as small wins. Bringing together digitally printed fabric garments and incredibly naive ceramic tableware they mix both metaphors and materials. Weirdly compelling. BECK

Being, Vestige and Pot Culture on Monday to Saturday at Craft until November 29
Keep Flushin' on 24/7 in the window until December 1

All images by Beck Jobson.

1 comment:

Margie Rahmann said...

oh my good gravy... I too am a Weddophile... Wishing I was in Melbourne SO HARD right now!!