Canberra is an inland city and in summer its residents escape to the coast, a 145 kilometre drive across the tableland through Bungendore and Braidwood, then down Clyde Mountain to Bateman’s Bay. Over the years we have often made the trek to join family and friends there. In the early 1990s, while taking a break at Braidwood, we found an exhibition of Penne Jefford’s work at Studio Altenberg.
Jefford is a Queensland artist who began potting in 1978 and opened her own gallery on Mount Tamborine in 1982. In 1989 she returned to potting full-time, setting out to create a new body of work inspired by ancient civilisations.
The pieces we saw at Braidwood were stoneware vessels that had been assembled from thrown and carved forms and decorated using lustre and gold leaf. We were amazed to see works of such sophistication and originality in a regional gallery. We continued our journey with one of the smaller and more affordable examples. Some way down the road, we turned the car around, went back and exchanged it for the one illustrated here.
Our piece is 42 cm high and rises like a reliquary from a two-ringed gilded base. The strongly rounded body has been airbrushed a midnight blue dusted with stars and decorated with abstract ritualistic designs. The neck with its carved extrusions is similar to a more elaborate work entitled ‘Shogun’ illustrated in Douglas Cameron’s article on Jefford (“Of myths and rituals”, Craft Arts International, no. 25, 1992, pages 68-70). Our piece is slightly earlier (the base is inscribed ‘PJ 90’) and the cultural references less explicit.
We’ve always been surprised not to encounter Jefford’s work again but she started painting soon after completing this body of work and now focuses her artistic energy and interest in past cultures almost entirely on two-dimensional media (Redcliffe Bayside Herald, 5 January 2005).