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Seeing the trees from the ceramics

How Many Trees Make a Forest? handbuilt stoneware 2024

Craft / Seeing the Forest and the Trees, Josephine Townsend. At Tuggeranong Arts Centre, until March 29. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

Josephine Townsend is a ceramics teacher and potter. She sells her work at various outlets around Canberra, and also exhibits regularly.

In this exhibition she is exploring the beauty and diversity of trees – the details, and trees growing together in a forest and one knows she is passionate about trees.

The exhibition is displayed in different groupings, highlighting different aspects of trees and their beauty.

Josephine Townsend Spotted Serenity series, nerikomi, coloured porcelain

A group of cylinders – trunks – is arranged on a low plinth, each representing a different variety of tree. They have the wayward stance of trees, growing crookedly with lumpy and bumpy trunks. The colourings and markings on the trunks are subtle, and in some cases very realistic.

A small group of trunks is titled Pine Bark and includes vases and trunks. Again, the bark and surfaces of the vessels is naturalistic.

A group of porcelain cylinders is grouped together in a tight arrangement, under the name Dappled Splendour. These are created using a Japanese technique known as “nerikomi”. It is a time-consuming and fiddly process. This artist has used more colour in these works. The overlapping and consistency of colours evokes the feeling of leaves hanging thickly in a forest or a garden.

In a large group of works titled Dappled Delight, Townsend is showing a platter, flat plates and vases. The vases are shaped so that flowers do not move. The surfaces are multi-coloured, as though confetti has been caught in a puddle.

Most of the remainder of the exhibition is grouped under the title Parkland. I was less impressed with these pieces. While playful, I found the shapes of the leaves, or trees rather childlike. Some have tree trunks, which are understated as though she was unsure about them. Townsend has used a speckled clay which has the appearance of being grey and rather dirty. Two forms, however, are interesting, with elliptical mouths and rising walls.

This is a big exhibition, and I think a little judicious cutting in numbers may have made a more successful show. It is another example of less is more.

 

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