From the perspective of the front desk at Shepparton Art Museum (SAM), the Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award (ACA) has been well received by the public and particularly by ceramic enthusiasts that have travelled specifically to view the exhibition. We extend an invitation for all visitors to look a little closer at the work currently showing in the ACA of winning artists Michal Fargo, Kirsten Coelho and Alexandra Standen.
In our role of direct customer service for SAM, we love listening to people who are amazed by the technical skill and imagination of the awarded artists. At the SAM Shop we have been gathering a list of order requests from visitors that wish to purchase the exhibition catalogue for their own records. Now that the catalogue is back from being printed, we will send copies off to those anticipating its arrival.
Here are some impressions and comments felt in the last few weeks of the show.
The Australian Award winner Kirsten Coelho’s white porcelain calms and soothes the soul by way of a grounded, solid perfection that connects to a place and time in history where our collective memory lingers. Kirsten seems to mislead our first visual impressions of her work by exquisitely replicating the appearance of vintage enamelware in fine porcelain clay. This idea has its roots from an issue in colonial times, where people had a preference to use porcelain household wares but because of their fragility, they could not be easily transported by European migrants on the voyage to Australia. To overcome this problem enamelware was developed as a hardier material substitute. Kirsten appears to have turned this historical problem back on itself, in a return to using porcelain built in the image of enamelware. This reversal could be a signifier of how western migrants have progressed and become more established on this land to become presently, free to become indulgent once more.
Michal Fargo’s fragile and delicate pouch-like vessels speak to us through a pure physicality that is underpinned by different and experimental material processes. The surface of Michal’s seemingly abstract organic forms have a powdery, corroded appearance that may parallel the hot dry climate of the Middle East from where the work was made. These works also evoke a similarity to the structures of mineral geodes, rough with fine miniature cavernous spaces. These brittle mineral formation-like surface structures have been minutely shedding crumbs that we brush away with a soft brush.
A sensory comment about Michal Fargo’s work stuck in our mind - a visitor warned her young child to take extra care around them as ‘those sponges will not bounce, dear’.
The whimsical, elongated shapes by emerging artist Alexandra Standen float low on the gallery wall space and flow on to a multitude of ladders positioned in an upwards arc reaching to the moon. Alexandra Standen’s work has received lots of positive comments by visitors led to dream and perhaps reflect on their own desires in the installation’s skyward escape. Viewers of this work become more endeared by knowing of Calvino’s story that inspired the piece. The animation however extends the story into a contemporary medium, where the original story about adventures to the moon fade and the ladders themselves become animate antlike creatures that crawl about on recognisable Australian grounds.
If you haven’t already visited, come into SAM to see the exhibition before it ends on Sunday 18th November. SAM is open every day from 10am – 4pm and on public holidays from 1pm – 4pm. The shop stocks a range of publications including the Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award catalogue, exhibition catalogues, books on Australian ceramics and art, and art magazines. We support a number of local and interstate artists and their unique art, craft and design work is also available for purchase in the SAM shop. Gift wrapping is free and gift vouchers are also available. Hope to see you soon!