This month, David and I took a break from gallery opening preparations and drove up to Sydney to visit the exhibitions associated with the Ceramics Triennale. We couldn’t get to all of them – Sydney is just too large – but we did a pretty good job in the time we had available. It is not often that we have the chance to see so much contemporary pottery, by so many makers, in one place at the one time. In fact, the last time was when the 8th National Ceramics Conference was held in Canberra in 1996.
As an aside, and for no good reason except that I can’t find this information in one place on the Internet, here are the dates and locations of all the national ceramics conferences held so far: 1st (Sydney, 1978), 2nd (Sydney, 1981), 3rd (Adelaide, 1983), 4th (Melbourne, 1985), 5th (Sydney, 1988), 6th (Brisbane, 1990), 7th (Adelaide, 1993), 8th (Canberra, 1996), 9th (Perth, 2000), 10th (Bendigo, 2003), 11th (Brisbane, 2006), 12th aka 1st Ceramics Triennale (Sydney, 2009). I see that the next one will be in Adelaide.
We stayed on in Sydney for the Shapiro auction on 21 July and then flew up to Brisbane to pick up some pots we had bought that were too large to post. This gave us the chance to visit the new Fusions Gallery in Fortitude Vallery and Artisan just down the road. We drove back to Sydney in a rented car, calling in at Bob Connery’s Stokers Siding Pottery and Christine Ball’s Barking Dog Gallery at Uralla along the way. Swapping back to our own car at Sydney airport, we came home via Mittagong and Canberra.
I’ve just been unwrapping our exhibition purchases and they include works by (from the left in the picture) Richard Brooks, Janna Ferris, Kenji Uranishi, Antony Brink, Janette Loughery, Cath O’Gorman, Amanda Hale, Vicki Grima, Andrew Widdis, Patsy Hely, Kirk Winter, Veronique Pengilley, Simon Reece, Gerry Wedd, and Gillian Broinowski. We also bought works by Fleur Schell, Avi Amesbury and Sandy Lockwood that we have yet to pick up.
Looking back, I see that some of our purchases were not Triennale exhibition pieces at all. The Richard Brooks, for instance, comes from the cellar at Freeland Gallery. Exhibitions held in ceramics galleries were enriched by, and highlighted the quality of, their other offerings. I also see that most of our purchases are small in size. This was partly because we were husbanding our capital for the Shapiro auction, and several of the exhibitions were geared to affordable, functional work, and partly because many contemporary potters, particularly those using porcelain for the clay body, work on a domestic scale.
We enjoyed the White Heat exhibition at the Manly Art Gallery and Museum, and the Earth to Form exhibition at the University of Sydney’s Tin Sheds Gallery, and speculated about becoming patrons of installation art, but in practice our gallery is domestic in scale too, and so is our budget. When David showed signs of wanting to take Gudrun Klix’s On the Table home, I dragged him in to a nearby booth to watch Pip McManus’s Ichor and he had returned to his senses when we emerged half an hour later.
Two poignant exhibitions celebrated the work of recently deceased potters: Alan Peascod: influences and dialogue at the National Art School in Darlinghurst, and Gillian Broinowski: a celebration of form at Sturt Gallery in Mittagong. The Peascod exhibition was a retrospective one, exhibiting some quite wonderful pieces from public and private collections. The Broinowski exhibition was of recent work, left in her studio, following her death in November 2008.
We found the venues for these two exhibitions of great interest and enjoyed their ambience and historical associations. The National Art School is located in the old Darlinghurst Gaol site, which was converted to the East Sydney Technical College in 1921. NAS was at first part of the technical college, but, after some difficult times, has operated as an independent entity since 1996. Many Australian potters are alumni of ESTC/NAS. Sturt has also been a centre of excellence for Australian pottery since Ivan McMeekin established the Sturt Pottery in 1953, and we always enjoy stopping to visit the gallery there on our way to or from Sydney and Canberra.