Showcasing glassware, mid-century Bendigo Pottery, contemporary ceramics and still life paintings from Bendigo Art Gallery’s vast collection, the current Post Office Gallery exhibition, Composing Objects, explores the innate creative desire to arrange three-dimensional objects.
Traditional still life paintings, including Madge Freeman’s Still Life, c1926, provide a foundation from which to explore the broader notion of bringing objects into conversation by arranging them in infinite ways.
The simplicity of objects in a still life composition allows for clarity of form, as well as focused attention in their representation. Agnes Goodsir’s Zinnias, c1925, and Alison Rehfisch’s Untitled (still life with pipe and coffee cup), c1935, illustrate skillful rendering of familiar objects in formal still life compositions. In contrast, Adrien Feint introduces elements of surrealism in his still life painting Right Hand, Left Hand, 1955.
Renowned Australian ceramic artist Gwyn Hanssen Pigott takes another approach to the classic still life in her work Still Life(with bottle, beaker and cup), 1992, in which a series of modest objects are grouped and presented as a three-dimensional still life. Hanssen Pigott is well known for her still life groupings of everyday ceramic vessels. Individually understated, en masse and in conversation with the objects around them, each piece is elevated beyond its basic functionality to form a highly finessed poetic whole.
Although not a still life, Phil Elson’s …over there are the cranes of Sagrada is a striking example of a single artwork made up of multiple parts. Inspired by his 2008 artist residency in Barcelona, the work references the towering spires and accompanying construction equipment perched atop La Sagrada Familia; a large Catholic church in Barcelona designed by celebrated Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi. In beautiful translucent clay, Elson visually articulates his memories of the cityscape of Barcelona. Each individually hand thrown vessel cascades one into the other to create an unfolding unified whole, full of movement and shadow play. Each form is unglazed to ensure it sits with vigor and clarity within the composition without the distraction of embellishment.
As distinct from Elson, Tania Rollond focuses her attention on the surface embellishment of her ceramic forms. In her work Below the horizon, 2007, a suite of bulbous vessels sit together much like a still life composition.
There are infinite creative approaches to composing objects, as explored through this exhibition which opens everyday, 9am – 5pm, until May 28.