In The Woods
This body of work developed from an interest in ceramic dessert figurines made by artists such Johan Joachim Kandler at Meissen (1706-75) and Franz Anton Bustelli (1723-63) at Nymphenburg who were both porcelain modellers. The porcelain figurines they produced were literally conversation pieces, which were brought out during dessert. The dessert tableau was made up of a number of figurines, which collectively conveyed a narrative of some sort. The figures were originally made with sugar or cookie dough. Later on the more durable and precious materials of porcelain or silver replaced these ephemeral tableaux. Porcelain allowed for more complex compositions and the reuse of the figurine in new configurations each time. Earthenware Staffordshire figurines from the eighteenth century were also made to commemorate and illustrate particular events or individuals. The figurines were sold at fairs as knick-knacks often commemorating events such as famous murders.
Our relationship with the figurines is complex; on one level you are drawn into the interior world of the miniature, yet on another level you are in control in a scenario where the figurines assume the characteristics of the toy. The miniature and the figurine both skirt the area of kitsch. A great deal of the historical ceramic work I am referencing could be defined as kitsch. The work in this show is a development from previous tableau works which referenced the Willow Pattern and were social commentary in nature. These tableaux pieces operate as kinds of allegory; a common characteristic of tableaux from the past. The work also draws from the idea of an ‘Australian Gothic’, where the outback and its inhabitant creatures stand in for the ‘other’. From as early as first settlement, Australia has been regarded as both a bountiful utopia and a hellish place where nature seemed uncannily strange or hostile. The film ‘Wake in Fright’ and the Triffid’s song ‘Lonely Stretch’ were uppermost in my mind whilst devising and making these pieces.
Gerry Wedd, 2011