Place * product

Rod Bamford, Maree Bracker and Toni Warburton

Curated by Susan Ostiling, Place*Product, was an adventurous exploration into the history of the ceramics industry in the Ipwich area. Contemporary modes of art practice were engaged in order to assist in this historical investigation. For the duration of the show, a range of ceramic objects made locally between 1890 and 1950 was displayed in the gallery. In addition, three artists, Rod Bamford, Maree Bracker and Toni Warburton developed works on site using bricks and pavers donated by local industry. Conceptually, this exhibition ambled around, presenting a diverse collection of ceramic objects and a range of modes of practice – both old and new; both permanent and temporal.

The photographs one encountered upon entering the gallery acted as a metaphor from the whole show. These images, produced between 1899 to 1991, depicted various locations and aspects of ceramic production in the Ipswich area. There were not hung chronologically, rather pictures of the past were alternated with more contemporary images. Some focused on places – work sites and production – others on the please involved. The objects displayed acted as fragments of past local production. Included were commercially produced brocks, electric jugs, jardinières, bowls, vases and figurines. A number of worker’s pieces were also exhibited. These objects, often small in scale, were not made to sell, but for pleasure, or as gifts, or were used to experiment with moulds and glazes.

Each of the three contemporary artists involved was invited to develop work on site using bricks and pavers, both fired and unfired. Aside from the space within the gallery, that artists has access to an outside enclosure in which to develop the work. Rob Bamford, the first artist to work in situ, constructed a suspended sculptural form inside the gallery, using about sixty bricks and wire. Titled Zipper, this piece seemed organic and animal like, casting a shadow which looked as though it belonged to the vertebrae of a dinosaur rather then a collection of suspended bricks. In the outside enclosure Bamford used brick modules to construct architectural/sculpture forms.

Maree Bracker chose to consider the brick as a metaphor for human presence.1 One of her works invited passers by to write their place of birth on the side of a brick and to place it in the fenced enclosure outside the gallery. Over 500 people responded, and a number of these became involved in the sharing of birthing stories which, in turn inspired other work within the enclosure. The labelled bricks acted as contemporary cultural fragments which linked people, places and times. Placed together, as they were, they formed an impressive adjunct to the permanent array of bricks which pave the space.

Toni Warbuton, the third artist to participate in Place*Product, explored the relationships between bricks and ornament. Warburton chose to work on the grassed area outside the fenced enclosure, a positioning which highlighted concerns often faced by artists working in public spaces, regarding thoroughfare, security and safety. The work developed for this space responded to what Warburton describes as ‘the relentless plazafication of Australia’.2 Pavers were places on the grassed area to from small patterned motifs. The spaces between the pavers were watered and fertilized daily to nourish the grass, while the pavers covered patches preventing the grass from growing. This work offered a gentle interruption to the unkempt stretch of grass. The patterns, widely spaced, became fleeting ornaments, encouraging contemplation.

The fragments of past and present ‘object making’ and ‘art practice’ offered throughout the course of Place*Product presented challenged which could be taken up by regular gallery visitors and local residents. For three weeks, bricks and pavers were not only part of the local history, architecture and industry; they became sources for visual delight and intrigue. Those who participated were encouraged not to merely gaze with nostalgia, but to reconsider objects, such as bricks and vessels, and to ponder some of the rituals which are normally taken for granted.

notes: 
  1. Exhibition notes.
  2. Toni Warburton, artists talk, Ipswich Regional Gallery.