ARTLINES: 'Jewel Box and other treasures: a gift of Australian works of craft'
Ceramicist Jessie Gibson (1932–2021) was a fierce advocate for the promotion and understanding of craft artforms. Sally Stewart explores Gibson’s generous gift to the Gallery, comprising some 48 artworks that collectively capture the energy and innovation of 29 Australian ceramicists and glass artists during the 1980s and '90s.
‘My concerns are the promotions of all crafts, especially quality ceramics, and the understanding of their value in the wider perception of fine arts practice’, wrote ceramicist Jessie Gibson, whose recent gift offers deep insights into this remarkably dynamic moment in the development of Australian ceramics and glass.1 Gibson was a part of this change, not only as an artist, but also as president (1984–89) and director (1982–89) of the Queensland Potters’ Association (now Ceramic Arts Queensland), an organisation she described as her ‘first love’.2
The collection, gifted recently to the Gallery, comprises mainly ceramic artists such as Janet Mansfield, Pippin Drysdale, Jeff Mincham, Dianne Peach, Sandra Black, Patsy Hely and Carl McConnell. However, it also includes sculptor Rhyl Hinwood and glass artists Peter Goss, Colin Heaney, Setsuko Ogishi and Gabriella Bisetto. The diversity of works and artists in the gift reflects the changing artistic perceptions in 1980s ceramics and crafts, not just in Australia but also internationally.
Dianne Peach’s distinctive, architecturally inspired artwork Jewel Box 1984 is a square box form base with a four-sided, pyramid-shaped lid. The bisque-fired work’s structure is accented by precise, rigid geometric decoration made with airbrushed stains and underglazes.3 Driven by her desire for perfection and beauty, Peach’s success was acknowledged by her peers when she was named Queensland’s first ‘Ceramic Icon’ by Crafts Queensland in 2004.4
Internationally acclaimed ceramic artist Pippin Drysdale’s striking Large orange bowl c.1987 captures the zeitgeist of the 1980s in its colour and decoration. On her classical porcelain forms, she explores the painterly surface using environmental or landscape themes. Part of her ‘Window’ series, Large orange bowl sees Drysdale return to her earlier skills as a painter.5
Peter Goss’s Shell form 1983 (from the ‘Shell form’ series) draws inspiration from the diverse colours and shapes of shells. Having studied hot glass at JamFactory in Adelaide, Goss set up Paraison Glass Studio in Tewantin, on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast, in 1981. Shell form 1983 is hot-worked glass: blown and completed in an ironbark former or mould, giving the work its unique asymmetrical shape. The colours are achieved by a process called flash colour, where coloured glass rods are heated together with clear glass, creating (in this work) a distinctive marine effect.6
Jessie Gibson’s gift is a significant addition to the QAGOMA Collection, consolidating the Gallery’s ability to represent this innovative period of craft production. Fittingly, it also ensures Gibson’s philosophy continues – to better understand the value of craft artforms, both as a fine arts practice and as a practice in ‘relationship with the everyday life of the general community’.7
Author: Sally Stewart, Curatorial Volunteer, Australian Art.
Source: Artlines 1-2022, pp.56–7.
1 Biography provided by Mark Gibson, email to the author, 29 October 2021.
2 Barbara Blackman, interview with Jessie Gibson with Barbara Blackman, 28 July 1987 (National Library of Australia, Oral History Section), TRC 2327.
3 Janet Mansfield, A Collectors Guide to Modern Australian Ceramics, Craftsman House, Seaforth, NSW,1988, p.83.
4 ‘Dianne Peach’, Ceramics Arts Queensland, <https://ceramicartsqld.org.au/caq-members/dianne-peach/>, accessed 11 November 2021.
5 Janet Mansfield, Ceramics Artists/Galleries, The Potter’s Society of Australia, Sydney, 1990, p.37.
6 Sally Stewart, telephone interview with Peter Goss, 25 August 2021.
7 Biography provided by Mark Gibson, email to the author, 29 October 2021.