Deep ties to the landscape in Mincham’s work

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“Still Life with Teabowl” I, 2020. Photo: Michal Kluvanek.

Craft / “Vive La Vrai Céramique: Adventures in Clay by Jeff Mincham AM”, Canberra Potters at Watson Arts Centre, 1 Aspinall Street, Watson, until April 11, 10am-4pm, Tuesday to Sunday. Closed Easter Saturday. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

THIS is Jeff Mincham’s 90th exhibition after more than 40 years of professional practice. Each work displays his supreme skill and confidence in form and glaze.

Mincham is an adventurous artist. This is not to say that he seeks new approaches to his work, but that he is always aware of what is happening around him, and how he might be able to incorporate it in his work.

He lives and works in the Adelaide Hills and knows the SA landscape intimately, almost spiritually. He absorbs, seemingly by osmosis, the changes in the season, the colours of the vegetation and landform. He has deep ties to the landscape he grew up in. The ornamentation on the pots is frequently an expression of a precious place, or an image that has caught his eye.

‘Touching the Clouds,’ 2021. Photo: Michal Kluvanek

The show includes several of Mincham’s acclaimed tea bowls which sit on pieces of carved wood. The still-life arrangements are placed on a piece of specially selected timber that acts as a frame to bring the works together.

“Still Life with Teabowl l” (Catalogue No 24) has five pieces: a tea bowl which acts as an anchor, a tall bottle, a beaker, a jug and another vessel with a gentle spout. The glazes are different on each piece and are carefully controlled while the textured surface draws the viewer’s eye.

The pieces in No 27 “Still Life with Teabowl IV” are in a paler glaze, with darker glaze decoration on the tea bowl. The still life works are quiet and restrained, in contrast to some of the larger pieces in the show.

“A Little Hazy Now and Then” 2020. Photo: Michal Kluvanek.

I counted five different bowl forms in the exhibition. Shallow bowls on a defined foot, bowls that rise from the foot, and one that rises straight from the flat base. Several bowl forms are shallow with wide rims that spread out. The surface ornamentation extends to the edge of the rim and carries over to the underside.

The larger works carry dynamic decoration, that looks as though it’s splashed on; however, it is carefully controlled, drawn and painted with layers of glaze. The bases are often cut out in the centre, so that the works appear as though they are on feet, giving them a lightness of touch. These larger works are sculptural and imposing.

Mincham listens to jazz while working in his studio and many of the titles refer to the music of jazz musicians, teasing the viewer with the ornamentation, such as “Blue Note”, “The Darker Side of Blue”, and “Harmonique – of the Coltrane Kind”.

This exhibition is impressive and important and deserves a large audience.

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