Known potter #50: Jenni Bourke

Jenny Bourke. fantasy mushroom ring (detail)

David and I have been gradually extending our collection to include sculptural works. Amongst the many artists who live on the far south coast is our near neighbour Jenni Bourke. She is based in Narooma, where she teaches high school art, but also has a weekender here in Bemboka. Finding that Jenni was a ceramic sculptor, we decided to commission an installation for the garden. Here it is: a mushroom ring which on closer inspection is a busy fantasy world, with tiny, colourful figures going about their daily lives.

Born in England, Jenni trained in Canberra in the mid 1970s, completing a Diploma of Art at the Canberra School of Art in 1975 (specialising in sculpture), a Diploma of Education at the Canberra College of Advanced Education (now Canberra University) in 1976, and a Graduate Diploma in Glaze Research and Wheel Work at the Canberra School of Art in 1978.  She creates realistic, sometimes confrontational, figurative works using clay as her preferred medium to comment on social issues. In the Bega Valley Regional Art Gallery exhibition ‘reSOURCE: The art of recycling’ held in August last year, an installation of acutely realistic babies wired up inside recycled cathode ray tubes spoke of the effects of  technology on future generations.

She turns to her fantasy work ‘for a bit of light relief’. Influenced by May Gibb’s gumnut babies, she likes to create whole environments. We responded mainly to the idea of a giant mushroom ring in the garden at first, but now find the detail extremely endearing, as do the children (and the children-at-heart) who visit the gallery.

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