exquisitely executed piece of work at an exhibition speaks
to you but you do not see the pain, joy, experimentation, disasters,
and years work that led to the creation of the piece. I once
envied artists who received grants but I quickly learnt that
a grant brings with it obligation to perform. It drives you on to take
risks, to push your limits and to create more and more wonderful, wonderful
( Pippin Drysdale in Artforce 3 1998 )
Australian Pippin Drysdale's emotional and intuitive response
to the landscape has won her plaudits at home and abroad.
Her resume lists a formidable number of residencies, awards,
international books and exhibitions. Her work is in the
major Australian collections and others abroad. In little
over a decade she has achieved international prominence.
The work speaks to nationals of other countries as well
as touching a chord with those to whom it belongs.
from Federal and State agencies which provide lecturers
with 'head space' are very useful. For practising artists
these grants are essential if they are to achieve their
potential. A product of Government largesse as well as her
own talent Drysdale is one of the fortunate few who have
been well-supported to develop their career. To watch the
career of an artist blossom through support from State and
Federal arts agencies has been instructive. One can note
the growth in practice and opportunities grasped from within
the security of the grant income.
is not Drysdale's original career. After another life she
attended Perth Tech, took a study tour in America and enrolled
at WA institute of Technology to acquire the conceptual
development she felt necessary to succeed as an artist.
Production pottery was not her choice. Painting pots was
more seductive. Her graduation show in 1985 included large
platters with painterly abstract expressionist decoration.
They were interesting but not particularly outstanding.
show in Sydney and Melbourne is imperative for ambitious
artists and Drysdale's first grant enabled such exposure.
She applied for an Australia Council Special Development
grant "To develop ceramic work for interstate exhibitions
in 1987". This allowed her to participate in Craft
Expo, Sydney where the work was appreciated Michael Bogle
in the Sydney Morning Herald pointed out why, writing:
In spite of the communications
network of magazines and newsletters between interstate
craftspeople, a regional flavour always presentsitself
in national exhibits. Western Australian work is a good
example of regionality
Western Australian designer-craftspeople
always seem to be pushing the frontiers of "Euro-style".
They aren't afraid of colour and fashion and Shun that
"brown sauce" that craftspeople often ladle
on their work. The ceramics of Fremantle's Pippin Drysdale
are an excellent example of the complex colours and nervous
decoration one often finds in the west. ( "A gathering
of The crafts" June 5, 1987)
was a financially successful venture. The proceeds were
used to develop work for Hobart.
the theatre as inspiration she produced a body of graphic,
often sombre-coloured, work with strong tonal contrasts
designed to evoke an emotional response. These were exhibited
in Handmark in Tasmania and Narek in Canberra.
From these three exposures Drysdale was invited to exhibit
in the National Ceramic Award at Canberra, the Queen Victoria
Museum and Art Gallery Purchase, the Shire of Diamond Valley
Awards, Australian Expo in Singapore and Fletcher Challenge
in New Zealand. Hobart Art Gallery added her work to their
collection. Orders were placed by the Department of Prime
Minister and Cabinet, Visual documentation produced a Certificate
of Excellence for Outstanding Achievement at the International
Art Competition in New York in 1988. A very good return
on a $5000 investment.
The work was continually improving. The 1989 reviews of
the Fletcher Challenge noted her work as "working with
powerful display of brushwork".
However Sue-Anne Wallace wrote of her solo at Narek "Drysdale
is a competent, if unadventurous ceramicist, with a leaning
towards decoration rather than form. This recalls the painterly
ceramics of Arthur Boyd and John Perceval
shows much promise."
work was necessary. She applied for a Creative Development
Grant "To extend and refine the painterly techniques".
The Logging on Parchment series of 1990 was the result.
She could be more liberal with her materials and more expressive
with her brushes. Importantly the grant enabled her to send
work to Darwin, Melbourne, Brisbane and Tokyo and develop
new glazes and forms for three solos in Melbourne and Perth.
The result was works purchased for AGWA and MAGNT and QAG
and ensured a growing reputation and the beginnings of a
corporate and private client base. Sales provided money
to purchase assistance with throwing. A further good return
for a small investment.
work was now of a standard to accept an invitation to be
an artist-in-residence at the Grazia Deruta Majolica in
Italy in 1991. The factory regularly has artists in residence
to develop work. A short residency in Cardiff was arranged
plus a return trip via USA. Meanwhile an artists' exchange
with Siberia was also offered. ArtsWA provided a $3250 Travel
Grant and Foreign Affairs provided project assistance of
$1000. These small sums allowed the project to proceed and
had enormous benefit for the artist. Not only was there
considerable impact on her subconscious with the results
obvious in her work but she also learnt to master lustres
and gold leaf to recreate the richness of these cultures.
An added benefit was being included in international books
on porcelain by authors Daphne Carnegie and Peter Lane.
Her subsequent work, of international quality, painted and
lustred on wide chalice-like forms, make striking statements
and a number have gone to public collections. The work saw
her selected for CINAFE, 1993 and develop the Landscape
Lustre Series-outback Australian landscape reduced to
provided money to take part in the 1992 Ausglass Conference
in Canberra allowing her to work with some of the best glass
people in the world. Her glazes took on a glassy depth.
The painting became more sophisticated. The invitation to
be part of Delinquent Angel-the exhibition of Australian
ceramics in Faenza, Italy came from this body of work and
from that the current invitation to Gubbio, Italy to attend
a symposium and exhibit in 1999.
Drysdale's works are technically difficult as she likes
to "work on the edge - constantly pushing work into
a state of experiment - expanding and evolving". This
means a considerable wastage despite time spent on experiments
and tests. The grants assist in covering the losses. Drysdale
was anxious to produce work for CINAFE 1994 and applied
for a larger "Creative Development Grant". Being
successful she commenced the Seashore and Chalice
Series which featured a taller more enclosed form conveying
a sense of preciousness. She could now lavish lustre on
her gallery withdrew from CINAFE she participated in art
fairs in Singapore, Surabaya and Melbourne. The fees to
the organisers were considerable. However an invitation
came to be Artist in Residence in Banff, Canada which luckily
had a Bursary attached. The Australia Council allowed her
to include this in her programme. This residency saw a distinct
change in the work. There was a shift in emphasis away from
the intense painterly approach to a more sculptural concept.
She concentrated on form rather than surface, her energy
channelled into developing vessels which could be grouped
together to create formal landscapes. Her Pinnacles Series
won the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery Purchase Award and
the City of Perth Craft Award in 1995 - her first major
awards. Still building on the experience she went for a
short visit to the eastern goldfields and began to translate
the colours and the textures to the new shapes. The strength
of her practice is as a colourist. Rich painterly glazes
are her forte. She soaks up colour and atmosphere and stores
the elements which inspire her. The she commits the experience
to the surface of a generous but classically simple pot.
Suffused sunrises and glowing sunsets above a horizon line
contrasted with crystalline foregrounds indicating vegetation.
Plainer forms overlaid with crackle resembled the crazing
of a parched lake. The mature work shown in Beaver Gallery
saw her invited again to show in USA.
The combination of the grants over the four years had made
a remarkable impact on the quality of the work. An article
and cover on Craftwest and another in Craftarts
International plus inclusion in the new books by Ioannou
and Mansfield helped develop her profile.
Granted a 1998 VACF Project Grant of $20,000 for a "New
body of work emphasising new glazes and surface treatment
on large scale works" she prepared Eastern Goldfields
Series III for an exhibition at Quadrivium Gallery in
Sydney and SOFA New York and Chicago. It purchased throwing
assistance to make the massive forms and enabled her to
experiment with new surface textures incorporating both
crazing and lustre.
ArtsWA Creative Development Fellowship of $30,000 for 1998
was awarded on the strength of the mature work. This took
the pressure off earning. She was able to step back from
her heavy exhibition schedule to experiment and let the
experiences run free. She travelled to the north of Australia
for visual stimulation and to undertake intensive research
and development. Helped by ceramic chemist Mike Kusnik,
she developed a new matte glaze and taller forms and had
time to control the wastage.
Drysdale spends weeks preparing glazes, developing the palette
with interrelated gradations and tones of each hue, then
tests that they are eompatible and will sustain layerings
of glaze to build the three dimensional surfaces she seeks.
The new glaze, giving a very different quality to her work,
was exhibited for the 1999 Festival of Perth. The
art critic David Bromfield wrote of:
Her impressive exhibition
she goes out of her way to seduce her viewers, to charm
them into taking the work seriously, long enough for the
depth of her contemplation of the landscape, which informs
each piece, to reveal itself fully
It would be a
mistake to think of her as a glorified abstract expressionist
porcelain painter. On the contrary, she emphasises the
alchemical processes that make the clay a unique medium
so the evolution, under stress from high temperature and
chemical reaction, of the marks, dripping glazes, parallels
and recalls the rocky landscapes which evolved in exactly
the same way
Drysdale has achieved an extraordinary
range of effects: from the dry-as-dust ochres, greys and
blues of Spiritscape - Balgo Hills to the lush
infinite blues and purples of Nightscape - Lake Amadeus.
Three small striped Maningrida Weavings range from
purple through flame orange to deep red. To glance from
one to the other is to watch the sun slowly setting on
a perfectly still day. (West Australian Feb.6, 1999
Big Weekend p7)
and financially successful, it gives her a base from which
to advance and the courage to accept the experiences being
offered - a trip to Pakistan, a residency in Italy and another
in Honolulu. This is an international career built with
the help of regular funding from Government agencies - a
worthy return for 'our investment.