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Pale and Perfect: Ceramics from the Queensland Art Gallery Collection

Col Levy Vase: Wavy form 1994

Col Levy | Australia b.1933 | Vase: Wavy form 1994 | Porcelain, wheelthrown with white glaze | Purchased 1995. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation | Collection: Queensland Art Gallery

Currently on display | Queensland Art Gallery

This exhibition focuses on ceramics with subtle and refined glazes, selected from the Queensland Art Gallery’s significant collection of Australian ceramics made after World War Two.

This period saw the emergence of the studio-pottery tradition inspired by the work of British potter Bernard Leach and Japanese potter Shōji Hamada. This Anglo–Japanese collaboration spread to Australia through the medium of Leach’s revered text A Potter’s Book (1940).

In the first period of influence, stoneware forms and glazes were controlled: Victorian potter Harold Hughan was the first in Australia to experiment with celadon glazes while Queensland potter Carl McConnell innovated with transmutation glazes. As the decades progressed, and with Australia’s increasing interaction with Japan, ceramics began to adopt the irregularity of shape and deliberately imperfect glazes favoured by the Japanese.

With greater skills and technical understanding, especially in glazing, the late 1970s saw the influence of Chinese ceramics emerging as a reaction to the dominance of the largely dark, Japanese-inspired surfaces. Japanese–Australian potter Shigeo Shiga manifests the change in his white glazed Vase 1977. Carl McConnell was also experimenting with celadon glazes from the late 1970s and Kuan bowl 1980 is exemplary of his work in this style. By this time, the challenge of Chinese glazes was being met successfully by McConnell’s son Phillip, Ian McKay and a group of younger potters including Rick Wood and Philip Douglas.

A more sculptural approach can be found in senior potter Col Levy’s Vase: Wavy form 1994 and in the work of internationally recognised Queensland potter Gwyn Hanssen Pigott — Pigott continues to develop groups of works using subtle, traditional forms and refined glazes in laterally extending installations, such as Travellers no.3 2005.