‘Slip below’, the title of RMIT’s Ceramics Graduate Exhibition is a play on words: “To slip down might have a hint of slapstick about it, and even a fear of hurting oneself in the process, however in all seriousness this invitation is merely encouraging you to slip down to the ceramics studio in the basement of building 4 at RMIT university.”
Work from the ten BA Fine Art graduates featured in the exhibition is comprised of wheel thrown pieces, sculptural forms and installations. These works “have a sense of freedom which belies the constraints of traditional ceramics, introducing mixed media components and removing the pedestal plinth which for so long has dominated the medium.”
Kerry Peterson’s miniature garden is a “tribute to the delicate death and fleeting existence of the overlooked areas of our own yards”. More interested in the plants that aren’t supposed to be there than those that are, such as weeds, Kerry is fascinated by the simple, unappreciated beauty of these plants. Kerry’s delicate pieces demonstrate that ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ as she draws inspiration from “the detail in the world around me”.
The manipulation and experimentation of crystalline glaze is the key component in Callum Donald’s pieces. Inspired by the work of John Payne, Callum visited John’s studio gallery in Bingie Bingie on the NSW coast. By blending various glazes together, Callum has created a contemporary collection of work that explores the traditional Song Dynasty forms. A highlight of Callum’s work is a copper green black crystalline glaze that features green and black crystals over a dark green background.
Esther Konings-Oakes’ work is inspired by the fragility and vulnerability of our coral reefs. Esther explains that “Our own expired coral reefs surround us all as either masonry or concrete. It is so seamlessly integrated into our lives we are not aware of its organic origin.” Ernst Haeckel’s and Albertus Seba’s lithographs of natural forms are a source of inspiration for Esther’s body of work. Our natural treasures, such as coral reefs are taken for granted when we overlook rises in water temperatures, which “cause the zooxanthellae (a symbiotic algae) to flee coral tissue causing it to lose its colour and source of energy”, says Esther. “Bleached they stand – weakened and vulnerable to infection and death. They await our mining, crushing and burning to make the cement that holds our metropolis together.”
Sophie Moorhouse Morris is drawn to “detailed and time consuming work”. This type of work appeals to her “because it allows my ideas, insights and movements with materials to flow”. Sophie’s latest work is no exception to this philosophy, demonstrated through her intricate circular structures that are formed with fine thread in an assortment of colours. Sophie is also influenced by “material, texture, pattern and or space” and the way these elements communicate and make us feel.
“The texture of the clay is a vital part of my work. Each form is unique in exterior and surface,” explains Lizzie Claire Burke. Lizzie uses a technique called ‘coiling’ to make the clay swell naturally. Her resulting work features four unique columns that are part of a collection or ‘family’ that are designed to “interact with each other; so as they appear to reach out and react to the other.”
Inspired by landscape, and in particular tree rings, Jono Warren’s work “represents the simple use of line and pattern found in the environment, highlighting its important sense of history”. Jono’s final collection consists of three forms that have been hand-thrown on the pottery wheel and then hand carved. The resulting pieces carry a sense of age and history, like a stalagmite that has taken hundreds of years to develop.
“What if I lost a limb or any part of my body somehow? Could I replace that part with ceramic?” questions Tonia Kwok. Tonia’s work has been largely inspired by Aimee Mullins who is a successful athlete, fashion model and actress. Aimee was born without fibula bones, so both of her legs had to be amputated when she was a baby. Tonia explains that “the concept for this project is about expressing a new function and the rebuilding of particular body parts – eyes and hands.” Whilst Tonia’s pieces may consist of assorted body parts, each piece has been carefully considered and lovingly crafted. Tonia’s work is elegant, sensitively tasteful, and leaves viewers with a powerful message.
“Excitement, anticipation and danger” are just some of the emotions that Anna Rowbury experiences when she visits the shed on her country property in the Otway Ranges, Southern Victoria. Anna’s work identifies “some of my key touchstone experiences of the farm: objects I use, life observed and nature studied” that maintain her attachment to rural life. “I detail the architectural elements of the farm, in particular the metal gates, tools and vessels I use,” says Anna. Anna’s collection of simple, traditional tools is charming and sure to evoke happy memories for many viewers who also grew up in the country or enjoy being outside.
“I was determined in my final year to stay within the confines of my ‘craft’ and create a rather laborious, technically skilled and intensely handmade series of works,” explains Jia Jia Ji Chen. All of Jia Jia’s efforts have certainly paid off through an intricate collection of pieces created under the theme, “Blanket”. Each piece has been meticulously crafted and some pieces have been added to others to form an impeccable larger body of work.
Exploring the relationship between the natural and man-made environments, Erica Tursan D’Espaignet has recreated an antique chair in clay and incorporated this with various natural elements. Erica explains that the empty chair has several functions: “as metaphor for presence or absence of a body and also as an invitation to sit, reflect and contemplate the passage of time.”
Erica was drawn to RMIT’s course to increase her technical skill and understanding of ceramics, including glaze testing and firing a kiln. “I was also attracted by the freedom you are given to follow your own interests with ‘alternative studio’ subjects.”
Erica’s advice to other prospective students considering a similar course is to “be open to trying a variety of different things: play, experiment and test. Also, trust your own instincts and make work that appeals to you, not work that fits other people’s criteria for success.”
Images by Noble Photography.