By Pamela Doerhoerfer
Australian ceramic artist Pippin Drysdale says her works are
as "sophisticated" as she herself would like to
be. Her ceramics radiate quiet and nobility, and yet conceal
surprises, as their surfaces change with the perspective from
which they are viewed. What from a distance often appears
to be monochromatic, reveals fine nuances on close viewing,
a play of subtle light and color effects, attributes with
which it would also be possible to describe a desert. And
there are further parallels between the works of art and apparently
barren nature. The largely fine lines winding around the form
of these vessels are sometimes even, other times broken, and
in some places are even coarse, evoking traces in the sand
that the wind has blown away. The objects are a response to
an excursion over the Tanami desert in an airplane. In her
most recent works Drysdale has captured her impressions of
the lonely landscapes in the northwestern section of the continent
from a bird's perspective. 26 examples of this series are
currently on view in an exhibition entitled "Red Earth"
by Heidelberg gallery owner Marianne Heller that is being
held in the Museum of Applied Arts in Frankfurt.
approximately 50 centimeter tall vessels are the essence of
emotional experience and aesthetic reflection and the result
of month-long experiments, at the end of which Pippin Drysdale
found an elaborate technique that express her mental images.
The procedure is far from reliable: some 40 percent of the
output is lost when fired. However, when everything goes well,
form and décor merge into a unity of the greatest harmony.
the form impresses with its refined simplicity (and by virtue
of its sheer existence), the shaping of the surface fascinates
with its extraordinary structure, iridescent and multilayered
like coarsely woven natural silk. Drysdale achieves this effect
through many layers of colored glaze, in which she subsequently
cuts horizontal grooves, which are then brushed out and filled
with thickly applied color. Because it dries quickly, the
artist can work only on one small section at a time.
the surface glitters in an infinite number of facets when
finished, like a grain of sand in the sun. On one object the
surface gleams irresdiscently in rainbow colors, while on
a different object warm nature tones contrast with a cool
turquoise (for Drysdale, a memory of water in the desert).
The lips of other objects glow in a flowing orange, as though
they were the horizon behind which the sun were setting.
landscape in her homeland has inspired the aborigines in a
similar way. The linear decoration typical to Drysdale's works
is found with them as well: in body painting and as patterns
in baskets, which in their cocoon-like form correspond with
the objects on display here.
Drysdale is, like many contemporary Australian artists, affected
by the culture of the aborigines. Her most recent works demonstrate,
however, that she has found her own unmistakable language,
one that incorporates tradition and yet gives birth to something