From ancient vessels to figurines revealing the daily lives of people from antiquity, ceramics have been integral to cultures worldwide for millennia. Ceramics have stored our most precious resources, have been vehicles for knowledge and traditions, and passed between generations as heirlooms.
Clay: Collected Ceramics was a celebration of ceramics combining works from Museum of Brisbane’s Collection and Kylie Johnson’s personal collection. It was accompanied by Commune, a display of single pieces contributed by more than 250 makers responding to MoB’s community callout.
With pieces spanning 60 years of creativity, including fresh works never before displayed, Clay sparked a conversation about the relationship between potters and their visions. From functional wares of the 1970s to conceptual creations by iconoclastic makers of today, this exhibition spoke of the meaningful processes of making and collecting.
The many highlights of Clay included a bold grouping selected from the MoB Collection to represent the many shades of brown, featuring works by ten renowned makers including Carl McConnell, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Milton Moon, Lyndal Moor and Kevin Grealy. In stunning contrast were newly commissioned and acquired pieces by diverse contemporary makers Bonnie Hislop, Nicolette Johnson, Jane du Rand, Kenji Uranishi and Steph Woods. Flowing throughout was an evolving performative installation by Artist in Residence Jody Rallah. A generous array of objects gleaned from years of collecting spoke of the life of Kylie Johnson, author, poet, traveller and founder of Brisbane treasure-trove, paper boat press. A film commissioned for the exhibition insinuated the viewer into intimate spaces of ceramics themselves. Woven throughout were many makers’ ruminations on how they lost their hearts to this most elementary, seductive material.
Go behind the scenes
Six contemporary makers were commissioned to create artworks for Clay: Collected Ceramics.
Here, you’re invited to join Bonnie Hislop, Jody Rallah, Kenji Uranishi, Jane du Rand, Steph Woods and Nicolette Johnson in their studios to learn more about their ceramics practices.
Late in 2022, Museum of Brisbane invited people working in ceramics in the Greater Brisbane Region to submit an original ‘memory vessel’ for exhibition during Clay: Collected Ceramics and BRISBANE ART DESIGN (BAD). The Museum sought to create a temporary, site-specific and large-scale collection showcasing the diversity and vigour of current Brisbane ceramic practice.
The idea of a ‘memory vessel’ is that it is resonant of place for its maker. Participants were urged to interpret the idea as they wished. Their vessel may have been be a literal representation of a place, embellished with its trees, rocks, clouds or colours; or it might hold in its material a thought or feeling, meditated upon during its creation. The only rules were that the vessel had to be original, to conform to size restraints, and to have been fired.
It is widely felt that the practice of making ceramics has exploded across the globe over the past decade. Some of the makers who were featured in Commune had been working with clay for decades; some for a comparatively short time. Many wrote informative, sometimes moving and inspiring statements to accompany their ceramic pieces. Taken together, their tributes to their vessels indicate that squishy, messy clay must be humanity’s most-loved medium. It is clear that for many, having cool clay in hand is healing, grounding and exciting, filling the maker with feelings of peace, purpose and possibility all at once.
Commune, was the community’s contribution to MoB’s Clay: Collected Ceramics, a cross-section of cultural production and a joyful celebration of the Brisbane ceramics community, here and now.