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Pippin Drysdaleís Tanami (desert) Traces
by Dr David Bromfield

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Originally published in Ceramics Art & Perception. Reprinted by permission.

Enlargement opens in new windowIn the Tanami series colors and surfaces are produced in a complex, highly crafted process. First three or four layers of colored glazes and stains are sprayed on the outside surface of the vessel. These have been prepared with certain levels of density, transparency and gravity induced running in mind though the final outcome is always impossible to predict. The inside of the vessel is colored by half filling it with colored glaze and swirling it round until a perfectly graduated coloring is produced. An evenly colored inner void in which form becomes a function of light is essential to the overall presence of the work but this sublimely sensitive density cannot be achieved with spraying alone, which leaves a dry powdery effect.The groups of clusters of lines in crystalline vitrified glazes moving roughly horizontally round each vessel are made by applying color into incised lines after the initial spraying of glazes. Using liquitex painting medium as a resist does this very accurately. It is much more precise than wax or latex and burns away without creating a vile odor or any other environmental problems. It has the disadvantage, however, that it dries and spoils rather quickly. The blades used for this work also wear out after a few minutes work. Only a small patch of surface can be worked on at a time, which can limit the form of the design. Once the surface is incised, special dry brushes are used to brush out the groves and to clean up the edges of the liquitex resist so that no ragged fragments or particles affect the glaze. Then thick colored glazes, almost a paste are rubbed into them. A single pot can take several days to prepare and Ď paintí in this way. Sometimes a further transparent glaze is rubbed over the surface. However, only one firing is possible without risk. A Successfully fired pot is so vitreous it rings like a bell.When Drysdale developed this technique she worked for several weeks on shards doing all kinds of drawings but it eventually became clear that different forms of Ďtracesí lines that resonate with the form of the vessel made more sense.

"Initially when I started to play with that technique I created drawings that looked like cave frescos. From that I suddenly though this would give me the ability to create some lovely traces. The very title Tanami Traces came just from my heart.

Youíve got to remember that Iíve never been able to draw. I canít draw Iíve never been able to draw bodies. I canít foreshorten anything. I ve got no sense of perspective. All that has affected the way I see things. I see in a very abstract way. I canít really draw the landscape, I draw emotion and feeling from the landscape; I think I always have.

The most realistic aspect of the landscape I have done in the past is the use of the horizon line. To actually make the commitment of a minute almost microscopic sensation of the land as if one were looking through a microscope picking up the little fragments or secrets and then representing that feeling in this work is very satisfying."

In firing the lines feather out or bleed slightly into the glazes which themselves blossom and weep into the surrounding surface.

Vessel by P. Drysdale"I long to get that feathering or bleeding or that fusion in all the works buts its very difficult, what happens is that all the stains and colors produced have different degrees of melting in the firing, some fuse, bleed more than others. When you are working with so many colors you have to have cut pint for the flux that controls the running temperatures you canít have one running and one standing stiff. It would be terrible mess."

With the incise lines its nice to have strong lines and variations of line to express different emotional responses in relation to line fusing outwards, almost disappearing or coming in strong but you cant control that."

Even so Drysdale achieves a remarkable relation between the technical possibilities of her art and landscape. Consider the way the glazes thin out at the lip of each vessel during firing just like the sky and land a the horizon one Ďprocessí parallels another in this way through out her new work. Technique and creative intuition could not be more intimately balanced.

© Dr David Bromfield 2002. Dr Bromfield is an art critic and freelance writer from Perth, Australia.

Pippin Drysdale will be showing at the Museum für Angewandte Kunst in Frankfurt Germany (MAK - Museum or the Museum of Applied Modern Art) from 26th Jan. - 3rd March 2003 in conjunction with Galerie Marianne Heller.

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