White Heat: Contemporary Australian ceramic jewellery, curated by Zara Collins

10 April 2014 to 17 May 2014

Katherine Wheeler, Creep Ring,Southern Ice Porcelain, fine silver, sterling silver, thread, enamel paint, pva. Image courtesy of the artist.

White Heat by Zara Collins, edited by Jane Hunterland

Clay is found in a myriad of colours and consistencies: from robust red terracotta to delicate Southern Ice porcelain. Whether hand building, plaster mould making, slip casting or wheel throwing, ceramics is a messy business. With its tactile quality and seductive nature, clay offers endless possibilities in the creation of objects. It is confined only by the artists' imagination and patience with material. Curators Zara Collins & Helen Johnson were intrigued and inspired by the current wave of contemporary Australian makers applying ceramic technologies to jewellery, prompting their collaboration: White Heat - contemporary Australian ceramic jewellery.

Many of the artists and collaborative teams in White Heat have employed unusual material combinations and methodologies. Their confidence and commitment to engage with untried techniques is reflective of a freedom in contemporary Australian craft practice and has produced a collection of innovative work. Exhibiting artists include: Graeme Bannerman, Bridget Bodenham, Kris Coad, Deirdre Hoban, Pennie Elliott, Sarah Hudson, Nelia Justo, Manon van Kouswijk, Lia Tajcnar, Prue Venables & Katherine Wheeler. An eclectic collection of established and emerging artists, who have a variety of experience in sound, jewellery design, ceramics, sculpture and installation, ensuring a diverse and exciting response to the notion of ceramic wearables.

Katherine Wheeler's fragile hollowware is reminiscent of delicate lace, crochet and old world charm. Her unique threadbare pieces have an ephemeral quality that belies the strength of the ceramic material. Interweaving porcelain elements with paper, thread and silver to create whimsical, miniatures in bleached hues. In an entirely different approach to hollowware, Prue Venables has recently started to explore the idea of wearable ceramics. Her black and white porcelain pendants display her masterful skill and ingenuous aesthetic approach to design. She is an established ceramicist who has developed her studio practice since 1989. Venables' Limoges porcelain pieces are painstakingly hand pierced before a reduction firing. Her work is distinguished by refined beauty and elegance.

Textures, hidden layers and a beachcomber's eye for detail define Lia Tajcnar's latest body of work. Her elaborately decorated centrepieces suggest undiscovered coral species of irreplaceable splendour. Tajcnar's extravagant artwork entitled Wing Bone Neckpiece combines multiple, decorative elements to create a startling visual effect. Meticulously textured resin and porcelain are placed in random tiers: shiny, encrusted shapes and matte white forms project from the core of each piece - creating miniature worlds of wonder.

Deirdre Hoban's geometric, statement neckpieces in shades of cornflour blue, pastel pink & yellow convey a confident sense of design. Irregular dodecahedrons & polyhedrons float on top of each other cushioned on thick plaited rope. Hoban's over-sized centrepieces extend at wild angles and bring a wonderful scale to her neckpieces. Her latest porcelain jewellery collection reveals a sophisticated design sensibility and a playful attitude to her work.

Sarah Hudson & Pennie Elliott work collaboratively; their beautifully executed neckpieces in porcelain and precious metals are the essence of simplicity. Each necklace features hundreds of tiny, intricate hand-tinted beads which celebrate repetition and subtle colour graduation. An exquisite detail of silver or gold miniature beads completes the elegant neckpieces. The hard, shiny metallic surface contrasts eloquently against the translucent, softness of porcelain.

Nelia Justo has a long held fascination with Chinese culture, history and traditional textile designs from the region. Her commitment and drive to continually learn new technologies and processes defines her sculptural practice. Justo's carved & cast porcelain neckpieces are reminiscent of Imperial breastplates - flaunting strength, power and mythic symbology. Kris Coad's art practice also reveals a curiosity for Asian philosophy, though her method is subtle. Coad is an established artist whose multi-faceted practice includes ceramic tableware, lighting and installation. Her paper-thin Haiku Neckpieces unveil the slightest hint of colour from within the oversized porcelain beads. Her pieces evoke reverie and provide the gallery space with quietude.

Bridget Bodenham works with a variety of techniques in her studio in Victoria. Her dexterous hand-making skills are evident in her Chain Neckpiece, featuring multiple links entwined into one over-sized loop necklace. Delicately nestled among the white porcelain links are minuscule tinted motifs - so elusive one could be forgiven for overlooking them. Her Stoneware bangles are contradictory in comparison: proudly raw and flat, leaving a slight hint of where the clay was joined. The appeal in Bodenham's work is a sense of honesty and immediacy - revealing a close proximity to the clay, the hand and the maker.

Internationally acclaimed contemporary jeweller Manon van Kouswijk's porcelain beads have a unique relationship to the body. Her beaded neckpieces were made by limiting the artist's hands and restricting the number of fingers used to create each strand. Vivid, yellow piece Perles de 'Artiste No 2 was made with four fingers. Eight fingers toiled to create Perles de 'Artiste No 4, prominent within the collection due to the contrasting black line-work sketched over white porcelain, emphasizing the irregular contours of the piece. Strands in varying degrees of 'accomplishment' are triumphantly displayed together - enhancing Kouswijk's concept, process and the individual traces of her hands.

In response to the inherent nature of ceramics, both curators wanted to incorporate a tactile element to the exhibition: providing the audience with access to a physical and sensual experience. All of the exhibiting artists were very enthusiastic about working in this way: considering the texture, weight and physical impression of their own work. Graeme Bannerman created a body of work where visitors could explore the jewellery pieces through senses other than sight.

Bannerman's 'Touch Table' collection is diverse: celebrating the true essence of ceramics. Porcelain hand slapped beads, meticulously hollowed honeycombed earthenware forms and an emerald high gloss neckpiece feature in his jewellery compendium. Bannerman is a multi-disciplinary artist and a secondary art teacher whose works have a great propensity for vulgarity and humour in equal measure. His enormous sculptural beads entitled Degustation and In & Out have intricately hand-formed body parts protruding haphazardly from the main bead. Engaging, ostentatious and bizarre - Bannerman has created an anthology of fascinating pieces for audience amusement.

There is no artifice or trickery in the collection of artworks displayed in White Heat - the raw essence of the material is celebrated by each artist's unique interpretation of 'ceramic wearables'. Porcelain hollowware, hand tinted beads & crocheted pendants encompass each artist's approach to ceramic jewellery's diversity - their sensibility, combination of materials and array of techniques will surprise and delight.