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Reviews/Visual Art

Changing the shape of ceramics

12 November 2019

Stephanie Hammill and Andrea Vinkovic, ‘Surface Tension’ ·
Mundaring Arts Centre ·
Review by Craig McKeough ·

The first point to note about this exhibition by ceramic artists Andrea Vinkovic and Stephanie Hammill is that there are no pots. Or mugs. Indeed, there are no plates.

This is ceramic art, rather than functional ceramics, or pottery. These are two experienced makers setting out to push the boundaries of the medium.

As a result, it is both challenging and refreshing to see what two skilled practitioners can do with clay, as they tease, twist, distort and damage it in a quest for transformation.

32. Stephanie Hamill, Meditation 1, 2019, biswue fired porcelain, thrown and altered, 34 x 31 x 25 cm
Stephanie Hamill, ‘Meditation 1’, 2019, bisque fired porcelain, thrown and altered, 34 x 31 x 25 cm.

They demonstrate that clay looks right at home in a frame hung on a wall, as Hammill does with her striking Landscape series, in which small oblong pieces of porcelain are artfully fractured, coated in a luscious black urushi lacquer and put together in combinations that suggest dramatic landscapes.

In Surface Tension, a trio of pieces which give their name to this exhibition, clay works beautifully as a type of canvas, with Vinkovic’s large upturned half dome forms providing the ideal base for her abstract, painterly application of a moody, grey-green glaze. And, perhaps less surprisingly, clay forms make exciting free-standing sculptural pieces.

Standouts in this show include Hammill’s Enso #1, a folded loop of stoneware with a glaze that produces an almost metallic-like grey sheen. The ring of clay is slightly slumped to distort it, but it retains a sinuous, serpentine quality that looks like it could almost be alive.

Hammill has also produced Meditation, a lovely collection of dynamic, curved objects formed from thrown and altered porcelain, bisque-fired only to retain a raw look, and then suspended in the gallery space.

Many of Hammill’s pieces feature the Japanese practice of kintsugi, where broken ceramic pieces are repaired, and the damaged area is turned into a highlight with the use of gold powder. She studied the technique in Japan with a master practitioner in 2016 and has adapted it for her own work, substituting brass powder for the gold. This is perhaps shown to its best effect in her Monument series of box-like forms, which feature a stunning combination of gold-coloured brass and black urushi lacquer.

16 - 26. Andrea Vinkovic, Cluster Seies (detail), 2019, procelain, glaze_2
Andrea Vinkovic, ‘Cluster Series’ (detail), 2019, porcelain, glaze.

Vinkovic evokes natural forms with her intriguing Transformation Study series, a combination of stoneware and terracotta, which are reminiscent of flowers emerging from a pod. Similarly, her Cluster collection of incomplete spheres bring to mind seed pods or even sea creatures, with their knobbly or spiky surfaces harbouring deep pools of blue glaze.

“Surface Tension” is a fascinating exploration of the possibilities of ceramics, taking the medium well beyond the conventional to tread paths of artistic expression that find beauty and reward in the damaged and seemingly imperfect.

‘Surface Tension’ continues until December 22.

Pictured top: Stephanie Hammill, ‘Landscape Series 11’, 2019, stoneware, black slip, 30 x 89 cm.

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Author —
Craig McKeough

Craig McKeough is a writer and visual artist, with a lifetime’s experience in journalism, covering everything from the arts to horse racing, politics and agriculture. Craig has always been drawn to the swing; an egalitarian, grounding piece of equipment where you can go as high and wild as you want, but you’ll always return to where you started.

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