Playing in clay: lines of inquiry


One of the things that is appealing about this exhibition of contemporary ceramics is that it’s an exhibition without a theme. The curator, Susan Ostling, in her wisdom has instead presented audiences with several lines of inquiry.

The intention of the course of objects: the fine lines of inquiry is to provide a way “to map, gather, assemble and reflect on current ceramics practices … to take the pulse on what is being made now,” says Ostling.

She’s identified several lines of inquiry and gathered the artists’ work into loose groups addressing these. This approach is in some ways a traditional approach to exhibition development, but in the age of tightly themed and highly contextualised exhibitions, this presents a refreshing snapshot of a craft so tightly linked to our relationship to object and vessel that it can’t help but please. It casts a wide net displaying a variety of works, figurative to functional and profiles the artists to give viewer insight into the artist’s interests and intentions.

Ostling identifies the need ‘to evoke unique sensibilities of place’ as one of the lines of inquiries. Artists respond to this in a variety of ways, some by digging and working directly with the earth from a well-loved location, others by making objects which embody memory of place.

Interestingly, ‘the need to experiment’ is also addressed full-frontally, Ostling preferring not to shy away from an artist’s innate need to practice their manipulation of materials. It’s not so much that unfinished pieces or experiments per se are on display, it’s more that experimentation has been given its due in terms of thinking and practice and it makes this exhibition interesting and real.

There are 29 artists involved in the course of objects: the fine lines of inquiry, so there’s plenty to see. Works are displayed on trestles and tables (and not a white plinth in sight) and this happily encourages viewing from 360 degrees making every object refreshingly accessible.

Get along to Manly Art Gallery & Museum before 8 June to see it!

This exhibition was developed by curator Susan Ostling in conjunction with Manly Art Gallery & Museum. This project is supported by Arts NSW’s Curatorial Support Initiative grant, a devolved funding program administered by Museums & Galleries of NSW on behalf of the NSW Government.

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