Culture Victoria

Finding the Moon

By Shepparton Art Museum Posted Under Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award

By Alexandra Standen


Well I cant believe it…..the art works are installed and the exhibition has been open for a week now and boy does it looks amazing.


The exhibition installed


I have now had a bit of time to take a step back from the whirlwind installation week and the excitement of opening night. It is so nice to take a breath and reflect on all that has happened since March this year.


The pieces layed out and the wall


I can’t thank all the wonderful staff at Shepparton Art Museum enough. Their support and encouragement throughout the whole making and installation process was incredible and I couldn’t have done it without them. This experience has been life changing and I also can’t forget to thank the Sidney Myer Fund for this truly generous award. My art practise has grown and I was able to produce a body of work that tells many stories.


Italo Calvin’s story, The Distance of the Moon, was published in 1965 and as it says in the beginning, George. H. Darwin proclaimed the moon was very close to the earth, so much so that it almost got wet from the seawaters. In order to reach out and touch the surface one just had to row to the middle of the ocean and climb up a ladder.


Starting the installation


This story is about memory, love, infatuation, travel, and exploration, as a group of people set out each night to harvest the milk from the moon and discover her wonder and mystery. It is the ladders in the story that I loved so much and the idea that one could build a precarious structure tall enough to reach the moon (no less, stable from inside a row boat).


Not only is this tale beautiful and wistful, it is about going beyond the world itself and finding a reverence for the natural world that promotes a spiritual experience. Calvino’s story has had profound influence on my ceramics as I have tried to come to terms with the landscape or space that I exist in. After reading this story I began to see ladders everywhere in my day-to-day life, drawing me into an enchanted landscape, leading eye my up into the sky or into a secluded nook in between buildings.


This story is the foundation of my installation piece for the Sidney Myer Fund award.  The ladders are made with southern ice porcelain, constructed very thinly using slabs of clay. Very intentionally they were made to hang on the wall in order to cast shadows that allude to an unseen world within the landscape I live in. They draw on the space around them and pull the view up with them to the moon.


Halfway through installing


Along side the ladder constructions I have produce a stop motion animation that traces a journey of some of the ladders. I created different scenes for the ladders to move in based on different landscapes I experienced this year.  I travelled between Sydney, the Southern Highlands in NSW and the red desert in Central Australia before arriving in Shepparton. This became a very lyrical and playful element of the work and one that helped me to tell my own story and the story of the ladders.


Ever present in this body of work is the feeling of being trapped and needing a form of escapism or a means of climbing up to see things from a different perspective. The city is an immense and complex landscape, which one finds oneself suffocated by. The ladders are a reaction to this feeling and tie into a need for escape, to find a moon of my own where I can sit for just a little while and dream. To create this feeling, for the viewer, of being pulled into the life of the objects, the installation and the use of specific spaces become paramount.


It was with the constant support and guidance of Elise Routledge, the Curator at Shepparton, that I was able to work out exactly how I was going to achieve the feeling of being lifted to the moon.


Almost at the moon!
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