By Pamela Doerhoerfer

The 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.

The 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.

While 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.

But 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.

The 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.

Pippin 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 fascinatingly new.



    For art enquiries, please mail