As one of the most widely available materials in the world, clay has been used for thousands of years, making pottery one of the most ancient forms of art. Thanks to the efforts of pioneering potters of the 20th century, it was not until this period that Australian pottery started to develop its unique style. Today, Australian pottery continues to thrive, with many talented potters producing innovative and vastly different pieces using the medium, some of which are featured in our 2023 March Fine Art auction.
Working from her sunny studio in Adelaide, Kirsten Coelho is surrounded by imagery of Greek ruins, artifacts and objects pointing to the artist’s preoccupation with architectural history. Despite the rich cultural and historical influences, Coehlo’s works are refined and minimalist. Beneath complex glazes, she uses a mixture of pale greys, chalky whites and cobalt blue. Cobalt Blue, used in her work Stylite 2021 (lot 113), is named for the silver-white metallic elements which produce the colour synonymous with Chinese blue and white porcelain. Coelho’s mesmerising coverage of blue acknowledges this cultural history while also “removing unnecessary information that may interrupt its power”– The Artist.
Working with a similar colour palette, Thai-born, Melbourne-based artist, Vipoo Srivilasa, works with mixed media and porcelain. Exploring contemporary cross-cultural and migration experiences, he creates playful blends of 19th-century European figurines and Asian decorative art. His piece Cloris I 2019 (lot 65) encapsulates these contemporary themes, creating a whimsical character emerging from an oversized floral crescendo.
Pippin Drysdale creates vivid and delicate masterpieces reflecting the vibrant landscapes of outback Australia. Often standing on a base no larger than the size of a 20-cent piece. Her process is labour-intensive and extremely technical, involving linear incisions through fine layers of glaze each added once the previous layer is completely dried. These delicate patterns cannot be achieved by spraying, with only small areas being able to be worked on at a time, taking days to create a single vessel.
Also heavily influenced by the outdoors, Jeff Mincham’s works (lot 153 and 154) are bold and expressive interpretations of the South Australian landscape. While he mainly works with hand-built earthenware, his works bear a strong Japanese influence. Using a range of unusual techniques and processes, Mincham’s works are multi-fired with layers of glaze and other surface treatments, resulting in a unique interpretation of the ancient Japanese technique, Raku.
While Australia has always had its fair share of great potters and ceramicists, it’s clear we are still producing highly talented artists working with clay in the 21st century. This medium has acted as the basis of many talented careers, with these artists using the clay as their canvas, conveying deeply expressive pieces honouring their respective influences.
LUCY FOSTER / Senior Specialist, Fine Art
Banner image: PIPPIN DRYSDALE (born 1943), Kimberley Series 2019 (Sundown at Geike Gorge) (detail), Estimate $5,000-7,000