TITLE: Within whose footsteps?
DIMENSIONS: 4.8m x 6.8m x 2m
MATERIALS: MDF, vintage picture frame
I find it impossible to look upon the landscape that is Marathon and not think of colonial settlement era artist John Glover, whose depictions of the surrounding region stand as visual reference for the most pivotal point in Tasmania’s history. Glover’s skill has left many of his scenes still recognisable today. Familiar vignettes appear to me regularly when I raise my eyes to the broader landscape surrounding Marathon, albeit with intrusions of ‘civilisation’.
If the timeframe of The Marathon Project had been short my investigation would have probably gone no further than to acknowledge the battle between man and nature constantly played out on rural properties. However, the gift of The Marathon Project has been its length. Not only have the participants been able to observe, over several seasons, the unpredictable extremes and effects of weather that farmers know intimately, but we have also had the luxury of time to follow numerous veins of interest. Time has allowed a much deeper story to surface.
I have come to realise that by the time Glover arrived at his home, Patterdale (northern neighbour to Marathon), the actions of his southern neighbour John Batman, and others, had impacted so heavily upon the population of First Tasmanians that the few who Glover saw in person were no longer living the traditional, idyllic existence in which he depicted them. It would seem, however, that Glover felt a responsibility to send a message to his viewer that these particular images depicted a landscape that had been irreparably altered (which he achieved largely through a distinctly different stylization of the trees).
Glover’s paintings of First Tasmanians were not a description of what he saw with his own eyes: they were a comment on what had changed and what was now absent.
I feel a weight of responsibility in re-recording this place, powerless to determine whether any trace of my art will survive to serve as an historical record, as Glover’s has. If it does, my responsibility is to have recorded my observations thoughtfully through the lens of my time.
The eastern planes of Marathon form part of a natural corridor thought to have been traversed by First Tasmanians prior to colonial settlement. Surrounded by Gloveresque vistas, today these grazing paddocks bear the marks of sheep tracks and fences and, as the land rises towards the conservation reserve, a scar regretfully left upon the landscape by a young Andrew Cameron, the current custodian. Within this space I placed an intervention: the footprint of a small, early 1800’s cottage, referencing the one whose remnants remain between the Nile River boundary and the Marathon shearing shed. Transposed into the gallery the cottage footprint relies on the works around it for context, while an empty picture frame ‘hung’ upon its wall challenges the viewer to question pictorial representation as a mode of communication. Through this work I am seeking to use absence to prompt my viewer to construct their own image what has occurred here across time.
One Year and One Day
This place. I’ve learnt to read it. I’ve traced the steps of those before me, touched the surfaces they created, devoured their words, burnt their saplings. I’ve reinterpreted the interpretation, hunted out evidence that spoke more truthfully to me, become distracted by traces that speak of small stories at the periphery of official history. I’ve found kindred sprits in those long gone: masters of make-do. And so, with not much more than my hands and the resources of the island, I toil away at repetitive labour seeking to pay homage; to their ingenuity, their resilience, their presence.
Naming works is usually a struggle for me, and this one in particular. Through the making of the work I sought to acknowledge the forgotten people at the periphery of official history who had been on the island before me, but there were so many it was difficult to encapsulate them within a few words. One trace of existence which had particularly haunted me was the gravestone of a little boy, the infant son of Superintendent Samuel Lapham, who had lived on the island during the second convict era. I unearthed no other evidence of this child's existence and found it difficult to comprehend that he and his mother were in residence in what must have been a very challenging environment. Charles Henry Lapham died June 28, 1848. The footstone of his grave reads "One Year and One Day", notating his age at death.
The work consists of over 1200 clay pots installed upon a mesh table found on the island. Though the numbers are not accurate (I found it impossible to derive an actual figure) the different colours seek to represent the people who occupied the island in seperate eras. The brick-coloured pots represent the convicts, the white pots residents of the industrial eras, and the various shades of grey those such as farmers, aboriginals, whalers and government employees. The clay for the brick-coloured pots was sourced from within the pits used by convicts and these were fired upon the island using a rudimentary firing method not dissimilar to that used by convicts to fire bricks.
I see upon the land a dichotomy, where everything native acts in support of everything that is not. Introduced humans bringing introduced crops, and the landscape is changed for better or worse. A constant push and pull exists: a relentless cycle through which humans seek to conquer and nature seeks to reclaim. Remnants remain while time shifts the balance of power.
The word ‘native’ refers to that which has origins in a particular place: that which was here before, which may or may not remain after. It is a term used by potters to refer to clay dug from the ground, from the location at which time and weather have acted upon rock. Native clay is my material of choice, as it is of this place. It is malleable through process, the permanence of which I choose to allow time and weather to play their role, in recognition that this is the order of nature.
Winner, Non-Acquisitive Award, Artentwine Sculpture Biennial, 2016.
Native (2016) was the second work produced for The Marathon Project. It was made specifically for exhibition within the shearing shed on the Marathon property; a dark space with a raised slatted floor. Over the preceding year I had observed the effect of weather upon the land, both through my own eyes and that of the property owners. I am regularly struck by the power of nature to transform the land; creating beauty and trauma simultaneously. Native (2016) is an expression of the fertile power of clay in partnership with water and light.
Native (2015) is the first of what will be a series of works I produce from my involvement in The Marathon Project: a three year process where a number of artists and a scientist are visiting and responding to a working farm and conservation property in the Northern Midlands of Tasmania. Getting to know this property and its owners, my interest in the impacts that humans have on a site, and the ways in which nature responds to interventions, have been strengthened. At Marathon I learnt of Black Cracking Clay, thus began my interest in using clay found on site as my medium.
Native employs the form of domestic crockery to represent human civility and presence. Fired to a very low temperature, the vessels were filled with liquid in the gallery, prompting the partial disintegration of the clay forms. The idea for this work came from conversations with the landowners about actions he had taken in the past to which nature had responded and attempted to reclaim. The accompanying image depicts the strange beauty of an area of Black Cracking Clay during a wet period: a sight which, in the dry, appears ominous by contrast.
A collaborative project with Isis St Pierre, commissioned for the Re-order exhibition, Spring Bay Mill, Ten Days on the Island, 2015.
This place. The site of diligent work for a breath in time, sits silently inhaling, waiting; a raw yet beautiful relic of industry; a blight on a landscape so awe inspiring when viewed in return.
We are privileged to be here, visitors with a free pass to explore this site of cultural significance to our home state, as it sits at the tipping point of change from what is known into the uncertainty of potential. We are struck by the contrasts of scale. The mammoth machinery dominates but the traces of individual human endeavor keep emerging. As we become more aware of the lives that have been here before us we are reminded of those that have been changed, the uncertainty that still exists for many, the potential of which they are being asked to believe. They are still represented here in the hand written dockets, typewritten reports, dirty, dog-eared machinery manuals, and well-worn maps. We are struck by the irony that paper; the end product of the resource processed here, remains and stands strongly in evidence.
We have chosen to gather and use these documents to construct an immersive installation in a machinery shed, bringing softness to the harshness of the site, exploiting transparency, welcoming the influence of whatever weather may seep through the cracks. We have disordered, fragmented, stitched and reordered these documents into floating planes representing the altering of landscape, the potential that is presented by change, and those things that are beyond our control. As we visit this place, assemble the work, watch it breathe within its isolated pod, we are ever conscious of the people.
Little Boxes was the outcome of a nine-week residency completed at St Patrick’s College, Launceston, which was awarded and funded by the Arts Tasmania AIR program. This work lead me to bring together two previously unrelated themes in my work: consumer culture and waste/repetition. Previous to this my use of waste materials had been motivated solely by material exploration, which was also my initial motivation to utilize used teabags for this project. During the residency I was able to recognise that my interest in consumer culture, as a potter and maker of objects-of-use, was also relevant to my installation work.
The title Little Boxes refers to the song of the same name, written by Malvina Reynolds (1962), which comments on the mass-production of houses from cheap materials (referred to as ticky-tacky) in America, post World War 2. My choice to make lots of little boxes from used teabags was a reference to all of the packaging disposed of post-purchase in our consumption driven society, which in turn lead me to the song. Teabags became my ticky-tacky and “little boxes in a row” formed the motif that became the arrangement of the completed work.
The works I group under the title Tilt were produced in my third year of undergraduate study (2011). This was the first time I had experimented with adding oxides to porcelain (without mixing them in fully which creates a lumpy, difficult to throw ball) and was also a period where I was attempting to extend my throwing skills. As a result I found myself drawn into a sort of duel with the clay where I would push it, and my skills, to a point where the form was on the verge of collapse. If I stopped at exactly the right moment I would win, if I didn’t the form would collapse, which I guess meant no-one won.
Storm grew from Tilt (2011) as a functional outcome, with the Storm range of products made from porcelain containing just a small inclusion of oxides. Though the process is repeated identically each time, an individual pattern of colour emerges on every vessel. The range is named after the spiral pattern created in the interior of the cups by the process: a storm in a teacup. These vessels are clear glazed on the interior for function and sanded to a smooth finish on the exterior to provide a silky tactility.
Interstitial was my first installation work and is an extension of the ideas about layering and multiples, which evolved from Strata (2010). In making Interstitial I became very conscious of the meditative affect of repeated action and I also extended my interest in repetitious processes and use of materials.
The Australian Federal Government’s attempt to have 74,000 hectares of Tasmanian land stripped of its World Heritage status in June 2014 was one of many actions of this government that were deeply concerning to me at the time this work was made. When Prime Minister Tony Abbott chose to misrepresent the facts about the true status of this land in the pursuit of his agenda, a tactic his government was employing in regard to many issues, I felt compelled to make my first political statement piece. This work attempts to set the record straight using a simple visual key.
I fear a return to war. I don’t know for which side I should stand. My home state is under threat of a return to turmoil in our forests, destroying the hard-won peace of recent years. I search for full truths, but find only halves: opinions and data skewed to service agendas. I add my own subjectivity, presenting an edited version of the rhetoric of our new leader against data claimed by selected ‘experts’ to be fact. There are no full truths. I fear a return to war.
White=old growth, Grey=regenerated 50+years, Yellow= industrially logged, Black= degenerated, Red=plantation.
Enucleo – contemporary clay was my first curatorial project, which I undertook in partnership with fellow Honours graduate Patrick Sutczak, in 2013. Enucleo grew from a desire to experiment with presenting ceramic art in the absence of the usual support structure: the white plinth. It also aimed to present work that demonstrated the potential of clay as an expressive medium without necessarily utilising the high level of technical proficiency often associated with the medium.
The project took Patrick and I on a steep learning curve, where we learnt many valuable lessons applicable to our practices as artists while also expanding our resumes and lists of industry contacts. Follow the link to the colour catalogue for further details.
My Honours project asked the question “How is handmade understood as a concept in the 21st century?” As a maker of functional objects I felt the need to understand how the present cultural, social and technological environments inform the reception of my work. At the end of the year I presented five works, each of which further problematized my original question, prompting the viewer to question their own understanding while serving as an expression of mine.
1. First World Dilemma
2. One and Three handmade
3. None of these things is just like the other
4. If I told you this was handmade why would you believe me?
5. handmade headmade heartmade
Produced during the final year of my Bachelor degree, this work was an expression of my developed understanding of the impact of place and arrangement upon the reception of the objects I make. Spanning two spaces (a ‘gallery’ space and an ‘other’ space) the plinth holds two collections of matching objects, which are utilitarian and devoid of decoration. Within the ‘gallery’ space the plinth is topped with a Perspex case, adding to the code which signals that these items are objects of art: for contemplation, not use. As a maker of both objects-of-use and objects-of-art I question how one differs from the other.
Strata began as an exploration into the layering of simple materials and processes. This repetition of processes, and the accompanying gestures and bodily sensations, soon became significant to my practice, as did the spaces created between the layers and the effects of light passing through the layers. The work Interstitial (2013) followed on from this.
Handmade of porcelain with a glazed interior and polished exterior, Cardigan Cups are designed to encourage you to embrace your drink with both hands and do nothing but enjoy. Complete with a cuff (felt made from recycled PET bottles) fastened with a handmade porcelain button, this is a cup for those moments when its time to snuggle up and relax.
“Free of handles, my cups are designed to slow you down for a moment, experience the soft tactility of their polished exterior, and enjoy the warmth of your beverage with your hand.”
Returning to an ideas first explored while learning to thrown on the wheel, this work has been developed as the result of an invitation to participate in the Back to the Table exhibition on show at Sturt Centre for Contemporary Craft and Design in September 2014. This is the first time I have incorporated a timber element into my ceramic designs.
Back to the Table Artist’s Statement:
I glimpse snippets of memory: whitewashed firebox glowing, face-bricks the deepest glossy brown, heavy metal poker so tempting, pyjamas warmed ready to embrace bodies washed of the mess of the day’s family activity. Toasting forks retrieved from hooks below the mantle, handles extended, ready for their role in a ceremony of sharing. Butter, real butter, kept at a safe distance, as are the children: a toasting fork plus an arms length and our cheeks glow. Soup brought hot from the kitchen, the pot kept warm upon the hearth from where it is ladled: seconds, thirds if you’re not already full of smokey, buttery toast. There must have been bowls, and plates, but I don’t remember: invisible, perhaps for their everydayness. But I do remember a table of sorts: a low timber stool, the perfect height for cross-legged communal gatherings. Above all, I remember all-encompassing warmth.
My particular interest as a maker of ceramic vessels is in the provision of haptic experience through design. With unglazed porcelain exteriors and a form that encourages the cupping of the vessel within the hand, my work presents an enhanced tactile experience to the user. I also seek to promote a slower, more considered activity.