Craft / “Anita McIntyre: Survey 1970 to 2022”, Woolshed Gallery, Strathnairn Arts, Holt, until July 17, Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.
ANITA McIntyre is a doyen of the ceramics scene in the ACT, if not Australia.
This survey exhibition traces her work from her student days in 1970 until her most recent work in 2022.
The earliest student work is a raku-fired, pinch-pot vessel. In the essay accompanying the exhibition (by Peter Haynes, consultant curator and art historian), we are told its roughness illustrates the importance of surface to McIntyre.
The artist is a keen traveller and, with her partner, has explored northern and north-western Australia in particular. Her home and studio look over the Brindabellas, with ever-changing vistas. Landscape is important to her – whether close by or whether she travels to it, and through it.
A platter titled “Untitled” from the Brindabella series 1982 has vertical and horizontal fragments of landscapes integrated into the surface of the clay – a technique called millefiori. They evoke views glimpsed out the window. The arrangement of the surface decoration is rather formal, particularly when compared with “Home Country” 2022, also a platter. The millefiori lines move diagonally across the face of the platter, a scratchy track winds its way vertically, and a creek runs across the top. This work is moving, poignant, as though McIntyre is harking back to the past.
Her travel in Australia and Cambodia is represented by superb platters on plinths titled “Tanami Track” from the “Inland Sea” series. Other works from the “Angkor Watt” series from 2017, show faces and boats.
Just as important to McIntyre is family. Several past generations of her family settled in the now-Canberra region, and for many years she has worked with old parish maps. “Parish of Googong” is in paper porcelain, with reverse inlay, terra sigillata and screen print. Landforms are superimposed on the surface and marks are scattered across it. Fragments of other documents appear as they might on an old, original paper version. “Fagan’s Creek” 2010 is another parish map, overlaid with fragments of diaries and letters, other maps and landforms.
McIntyres’ current family is represented by a series of beakers, “Wedding Cups”, made for her grandson’s recent wedding. The deep stamp on the base of the cups reminds guests of this happy occasion. Knowing that small vessels are keenly sought after, she produced similar works with Chinese decals titled “Fish Cups”.
While the platter form has been a perennial for McIntyre, she has also produced many boat forms, both open and closed. In an experiment using different clay bodies, she is showing several boat forms from ”The Incompatible Series”. There was no guarantee these boats would stay together, hence the name. When she was teaching, McIntyre looked for ways to teach, engage and encourage her students. At the same time, she was also developing her own oeuvre. She continues to explore and experiment, although she doesn’t have the same imperative.
McIntyre’s work carries a sense of place and memory through her omnipresent images, motifs and colours. Either through the surface decoration or the form, the work has a remarkable vitality.
This exhibition is a celebration of this outstanding artist’s 50 years of work. Place, family, and memory are imbued in her work. I look forward to her next exhibition, to see where her exploration takes her.
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