Pippin Drysdale

Throughout October, Linton and Kay Galleries hosts Pippin Drysdale's most recent body of work: a refined, attentive observance of the natural "smallnesses" which captivate one of Australia's most celebrated ceramicists.

Drysdale’s The Patterning of Light: Breakaway Series II is both an observation and an observance of the natural world around the artist’s base in Fremantle, WA. It is an observation in so far as it comes from looking – but also from feeling, from remembering, and from attachment to – the landscape and its multi-species inhabitants. Even more powerfully, though, it is an observance in the sense that it is a celebration, quiet but insistent, of the everyday miracles that Drysdale finds herself amongst. Perhaps to call these works “observances” is to let a little spirituality slip in under the door – yet, made of porcelain, the work is very literally (as well as conceptually) grounded. This is no raucous Bacchanal, but nor is it esoteric. To my eye, Drysdale’s works are about careful, caring devotion to the material and visual abundance of the Western Australian landscape – a devotion which Maggie Baxter has examined for Artist Profile in detail.

In text to accompany the exhibition, Drysdale writes that “as I have continued to explore my Breakaway Series I have become increasingly fascinated with the properties of Light Within the Landscape and my focus has moved from the ‘vastness’ of the images to the ‘smallness’ of things – the way Light founded and bends with the breeze on the water; filtered Light through gently moving vegetation; the iridescence of dragonfly wings; the fluttering of fish the glisten of frogs; the dew on the leaves and rocks.” The shift in the scale of Drysdale’s attention has brought about works which take as their figures the animals and plants that populate the artist’s world. There are ceramic responses to finches, orca pods, Banded Honeyeaters and water lillies. The dedication is in the detail, incised into the surface of the works.

Many of these works are installed in clusters, grouped like families or friends together. Taken together like this, there is an even greater sense of intimacy to the show. After a period devoid of closeness to other bodies for many people, during the public health crisis, these forms gathered together feel particularly tender. Each part makes up the whole: see the way that oranges and pinks in the Crimson Finch installation, 2021, call and echo to each other, birdlike, across the porcelain vessels and marbles. There is intimacy, too, in the process through which Drysdale brought these works to be, working collaboratively with her fellow ceramic artist Warwick Palmateer. 

This is a significant show for Drysdale, who last year was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of the Arts from Curtin University, and in 2015 was awarded a WA State Living Treasure Award by the Western Australian Government.  It runs in the gallery all month, and digital material is available online. 

The Patterning of Light: Breakaway Series II
9 – 31 October 2021
Linton & Kay Galleries, Perth

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