Conjunction – Debra Boyd-Goggin and Chris Harman
Conjunction is a fitting title for this exhibition of ceramics by Debra Boyd-Goggin and Chris Harman as it is an intersection of two individuals with separate practices and working methods who share the common thread of interpretation of place and environment through memory.
A recent visit to their studio demonstrated why two such seemingly disparate practices coalesce smoothly into a joint exhibition. Each artist is the others mentor and dialogue flows freely, unhindered by fear of criticism. This relationship of mentoring and sharing, and the exhibition, is best summed up by Harman, who casually reflects that “[with a] shared studio,[and a] shared life, collaboration is natural”.
Harman’s approach to his work may be described as mathematical composition. Measuring, drawing and creating a precise, visual reference at the beginning dictates the appearance and success of the work when it is constructed. Comprising of a series of repetitive stacked elements the works evolve from a solid support base, blooming upwards in sets of discs and risers, or cylindrical segments, into forms reminiscent of plant life. An avid plant collector and gardener, Harman draws inspiration from the intricate forms and vibrant colours of succulents, cacti and fungi. The works are a dissection of particular micro parts of a plant, recreated into macro scale specimens. Harman magnifies and re-imagines the living world, creating a gardenesque installation of succulent like forms such as Purple Creeper and Clump, interspersed with the fungi forms of Big Red and Orange Spore.
The works have a tension and vulnerability, appearing to want to give way to gravity and topple, or melt at a touch. This vulnerability is contrasted with an inner strength created through the internal skeleton supporting the whole structure. The implied frailty, coupled with the energy of the work, alludes to the fragility of life and wonderment at how plants support their architecture, survive and thrive. Contrasting the cleanness of the repetitive forms is the burst of vibrant colour and texture. Referencing and magnifying the bright colour and patterning of cacti flowers and patterning has added to the surreal aspect of the works, reinforcing Harman’s re-imagining of the natural world. Harman may precisely calculate his forms, however the works have an innate playfulness that draws you in to explore their complex structure.
In contrast, Debra Boyd-Goggin’s approach is essentially organic, fluid and given to constant change throughout the construction of the form. Starting with a suggestion, Boyd-Goggin constructs, alters and redesigns her ideas into forms that evoke a sense of nurturing domestic rituals.
Interpreting place through memory, Boyd-Goggin draws inspiration from her spiritual and visual experiences of childhood environments. Moving from Papua New Guinea to Alice Springs, the memories of these landscapes, the colours and textures are an integral element of her work. Bowl, platter and vessel forms are richly glazed with deep greens against white, reminiscent of the Papua New Guinea highland in low cloud cover, while textured browns, reds, and greys hark back to the surface and sky of central Australia. Evident in this new body of work is the progression of her carving, from shallower mark making to deeper gouging and cutting away into the rims. Boyd-Goggin’s work has a strength and energy that draws in the eye to a visual feast of subtle colour and texture. A piece that clearly epitomises this growth in her practice is Cradle, a curved, highly carved and richly glazed vessel form that commands its presence and extends Boyd-Goggin’s practice into new depths.
The collaborative pieces Stack Range and Cylindrical have a sense of play and experimentation. This work represents the beginning rather than the culmination of a collaboration that can take both practices in a new direction.
Inherent in the exhibition is the reference to memory, identity of place and exploration of the natural environment. Debra Boyd-Goggin and Chris Harman have created bodies of work that characterise their practice – individual practices that intersect in collaboration.
Curator and Exhibition Manager, Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre
The artists acknowledge the assistance of artsACT through a new work project grant, to assist with costs of development and production of work for exhibition in 2010.