Donna Green

For her first solo exhibition in Australia, Donna Green offers both delicious excess and the discipline of iterative practice. Devotionally made, over and over, by hand, her ceramic objects and drawings form a body of work that is both viscous and high-velocity in its approach to our sensory lives.

Donna Green’s beautiful Bacchanalia, 2022, is slung low beneath the weight of its own ripe fulness. Bulbous forms – at once like stone fruits, breasts, or camp confections in a storefront window – tumble over each other, enfolded in a high-gloss glaze. Aptly named for the privately funded, opulent Roman festivity known as the Bacchanal, the title gestures both to the earthly and to the divine, honouring the emotional and spiritual power of sensory indulgence. This is a vessel which both holds (our attention, our imagination) and holds forth, stridently declaring the gooey delight of its materiality and form. It holds us captive in both sight and touch, too – declaring, then, not just delight, but the importance of delight. The eye moves across it hungrily, needing to learn more of its facets and folds. 

The catalogue for this exhibition describes Green’s daily engagement with clay, telling how “She would often throw a series of small bowls to start her day in the studio. Them as each bowl was finished she would grasp it, deforming the shape, twisting and pushing in her fingers and thumbs . . .” This apparent transition from the “functional” form of the bowl to the “deformed” objects which make up the works in Vessels, while clear and intentional, may at the same time be a red herring. Pieces like Squeeze, 2021, and Look at Me, 2021, gesture to the absolutely essential function of phenomenological engagement in our lives, as a way of connecting with our embodiment, our autonomy, and our enmeshment with others all at once.

For all the talk of sensuality and matter, there is also a pervasive sense of discipline to Green’s practice. Many of the works presented in this show are made in iterative series. This is the case for the Constellation sequence of objects: small-scale morsels of clay and glaze, able to be encountered singularly or in their array. A commitment to order, to regularity, and to the work of perfecting (even for objects which feel so organic and intuitive as these) sings the structuring note of this series. Elsewhere, drawings which explore form, composition, colour, and texture also showcase the rigour of Green’s thinking and making. These works, of the Studies for Forms series, encompass both collage and oilstick, and investigate the possibilities of two-dimensional composition. 

Christopher Hodges, the executive director of Utopia Art Sydney, comments that this landmark show for Green “convey[s] a sculptor confident in her subject and in command of her forms.” With Green having studied first in Sydney before moving to New York City 1984, her work returns to Australia with heady and headstrong feelings into which we can’t help but be compelled – feelings of rapture, of ravenousness, and of a rambunctious joy.

2 – 30 April 2022
Utopia Art Sydney


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