The Maker’s Mark
There’s something uniquely special in the experience of the handmade, as Michael Brennan discovers.
In a time when we can trudge through a shopping centre in almost any suburb across the country and be provided with a virtual copy of the same suite of franchised retail outlets, featuring the same offering of mass-produced homewares and lifestyle accessories, the opportunity to connect with an artist through an object they have made with their own hands – bearing the marks of their labour and the subtle variations borne of individual attention – should always be encouraged and embraced.
Rowley Drysdale is one of those makers. A ceramic artist with some 40 years’ experience, Drysdale has spent the last couple of decades toiling away at Quixotica Art Space, the personal creative sanctuary he’s built in the Noosa Hinterland. Centred on a series of hand-built wood fire kilns which he has continued to feed with timber and clay, Drysdale has forged a career as one of the foremost ceramic artists in the country. The elegance of the vessels he shapes are accentuated by glazes which trace a delicate line between aggregate mastery and poetic chance. Surfaces beg to be touched while patterns dance across their skin in ways that could never be choreographed.
The thing about Drysdale’s practice is that it doesn’t end with the pot. The way his vessels sit in a space, rest in relation to one another and cast shadows on the wall extend their presence beyond their form.
If you are lucky enough to be the caretaker of one of these objects, you become intimately aware of their ability to impact the experience of the room they are in. Presented en masse, even the emptiness around them seems charged with stuff.
You can’t get this in Kmart.
Coffee pods on the other hand… Beatrice Prost has thousands of them. Also tucked away in the Noosa Hinterland, the French-born multimedia artist has worked extensively with aluminium sheets, tracing organic forms across their photographically infused surfaces with a mechanical carving tool – mining them, you might say, for memories and moods experienced on journeys through the natural environment. But with the use of the material comes a sense of guilt and Prost thinks of her reclamation and laborious assemblage of these discarded single-use aluminium capsules as penance and repentance for the impact her making has on the planet.
It’s not entirely clear to me what problem the advent of these tiny disposable containers was meant to solve. I guess our seemingly endless pursuit of convenience ultimately led to their invention, but as with the monotonous and ubiquitous modern day shopping experience, these throw away amenities take away something of the intimate experience and ritual of making and sharing a coffee with another human.
Of course for Prost, more significant is the environmental impact and implications of these single-use aluminium receptacles (arguably unnecessary given the almost universal presence of multiple-use metal receptacles in homes across the country and the world, i.e. spoons).
Prost perversely confronts us with this staggering waste, giving us something fundamentally beautiful in the metaphorical weaving of these bits of rubbish into a blanket of that provides little comfort from our consumption.
There’s an enticing tactility to the forms that both Prost and Drysdale give us.
While these artists come at creation from opposite ends of the production spectrum, somehow they both arrive at a place that impresses on us the allure of the maker’s mark.
Rowley Drysdale: Extracts
Beatrice Prost: Penance and Repentance
19 September to 7 November