Pippin Drysdale Scatterings - Devils Marbles Collection, Porcelain, 2016 - China.
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Devils Marbles Collection
A thousand fantasies
Begin to throng into my memory,
Of calling shapes,
and beck’ning shadows dire,
And airy tongues that syllable men’s names
On sands and shores and desert wildernesses.
John Milton (1608–1674), Comus. Line 205.
Deserts are commonly considered to be empty and barren wastelands, devoid of life, cultural significance and aesthetic value. This brief extract by the English poet and writer, John Milton, hints at the evocative sounds, lights and shadows, exotic forms and topographies of the desert. Australia’s vast semi-arid spaces (including ten deserts ) that compose 70% of the Australian mainland, are characterised by poor soil, droughts and infrequent flooding rains. Yet they boast an impressive biodiversity and many spectacular ancient geological formations that are an ongoing source of inspiration for Pippin Drysdale. The artist explains that landscape ‘is all about colour, whether subtle and soft or vibrant with contrast’. Drysdale never aims to accurately reproduce a scene, but rather captures fleeting moments in an intuitive manner, and celebrates her passion for the structures, colours and memories of the Australian ‘outback’ that is her birth place and home.
Drysdale tends to work obsessively with intense bursts of production lasting several months, followed by periods of rest and travel. This allows her to constantly evolve and imagine new series. The Devils Marbles Collection, made for this Biennale, similarly marks an exciting departure in Drysdale’s oeuvre. Graceful vessels have transformed into sensuous, voluptuous ‘rock’ forms. Created on the wheel, delicate alterations in the throwing process have transformed the individual vessels into unique sculptural entities. This series is also rooted in Drysdale’s recent shift from displays of single pots to installations of groups of vessels. The resulting aggregated form enabled her ‘to expand her thoughts on place and time…
Three groups of works, ‘Break of Day’, ‘Meridian’ and ‘Evensong’, constitute Drysdale’s Devils Marbles Collection. They pay tribute to the popular Northern Territory landmark, Karlu Karlu / Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve, that is famous for its scattered round granite boulders which vary in diameter, from 50 centimetres to six metres. The 48 porcelain forms that constitute Drysdale’s installation engage with a fresh, comprehensive and daring colour palette that evokes surreal and ‘magical’ desert light effects. Luminous and dramatic sunsets, opalescent cloudbursts, the intense pigments of primordial geological strata; shimmering desert mirages, and iridescent flashes of indigenous birds, provide some of the intense nuances that are transcribed by the artist. Drysdale’s dazzling installation captures Australia at its most wildly beautiful; soft, glowing pastels alternate with blazing golden and brazen crimson tones, offering spectators an alluring, seductive, and enigmatic liminal experience.
Acknowledgements For many years Drysdale has worked in collaboration with ceramicist, Warwick Parmenteer, who throws her forms.
1. Bartlett, John, comp. Familiar Quotations. 1919.10th ed, rev. and enl. by Nathan Haskell Dole. Boston: Little, Brown.
3. Baxter, Maggie. 2016. Pippin Drysdale. Unpublished text. Note: Baxter’s text includes a recent interview with Drysdale but also draws upon the 2015 article ‘The Wild West’ for Artists Profile, Issue 33, exhibition notes by Annemie McAuliffe, and a catalogue essay written by Baxter for their joint exhibition ‘Drawn from the Edge’, Anant Gallery, New Delhi, 2005.
2.These include the Great Victoria Desert, Great Sandy Desert, Tanami Desert, Simpson Deset, Gibson Desert, Little Sandy Desert, Strzelecki Desert, Sturt Stony Desert, Tirari Desert, and Pedirka Desert.
Photography © Robert Frith, Acorn Photo