In Colors of the Desert


Translated by Richard Mills

Your fingers touch and feel a surface as fine as silk while your eyes drink in colors: blue, red, orange, black or green. The form is always the same, the cross lines are always the same. It’s tempting to speak of perfection – these objects possess a simplicity and liveliness that cannot be heightened. In these hectic times, filled with contradictions, we almost never encounter such things. The Australian ceramicist is exhibiting twenty vessels in Heidelberg’s Marianne Heller Gallery, and what at first glance seems almost simple-minded instead exerts a persistent fascination.

The gallery has been in existence for twenty-five years, and this small show, in a somewhat different grouping, was previously on display in the Museum for Applied Art Frankfurt. It is almost impossible to understand how the city of Heidelberg could force a painful odyssey upon its renowned gallery owner in her jubilee year. Since the tragic fire in a pizza restaurant last year, her rooms near the city garden still remain unavailable, and Marianne Heller has had to find refuge in the Gallery Lepanto. But because she will unexpectedly have to vacate this space by the end of June, it remains uncertain whether she will able to carry out her exhibition plans for the year. At the very least she will be able to hold her exhibition of the “Group 83” in the America House, and she has also received an offer from the Museum on the Market Square in Karlsruhe. But the situation is extraordinarily difficult for the gallery, artists, and the public.

The serenity and calmness radiated by Pippin’s vessels almost seem like a force from another planet. The artist wanted to capture the Australian desert, with its red earth, the orange-colored sunsets and painfully blue skies, as well as the soft shapes of dunes and the scattered, fleeting lines blown in the sand by the wind. And yet Pippin Drysdale works in porcelain, a material that demands utmost precision and does not allow the smallest degree of uncertainty or vagueness. She appears to have experimented long and hard to develop the classically simple, slightly convex cylindrical form and merge it with the generally monochrome-colored interior surfaces and the two-colored exterior surfaces, which are scored across with lines.

The result stands before the viewer, vessels of such naturalness that they seemed have developed on their own, even though the process of making them was extremely complicated. These thin-walled objects up to 50 centimeters tall were thrown on a wheel! Using multiple layers of colorful glazes, the artist developed a contrasting pattern of fine, wave-like lines across the surface, incising the lines by hand and then filling them with colored glazes so that the surfaces feel incomparably soft and smooth. “Red Earth – Tanami Desert Traces” is only one series in the artist’s rich oeuvre, but it contains first-rate objects of almost meditative beauty.

By Hey, Tuesday, 27 May, 2003


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