THE natural environment of the New England region, and the mindfulness of daily work in the clay studio during the COVID-19 pandemic, were influential in a collection of new ceramic work by artist Max Powell of Glen Innes.
The exhibition ‘FormWork’ will fill The Makers Shed with an array of pieces throughout spring.
According to Max, daily practice and perseverance were key to this prolific period of creativity.
“I came to ceramics through art making and fell in love with the endless possibilities of this elemental and enduring material,” he says.
“There is always the element of the unexpected and surprise that keeps me asking ‘what next?’ Clay has become an obsession and a daily necessity as I explore different pathways and grow ideas.
“Spending time in the workshop honing skills and focusing on the evolving processes keeps me in the moment engaging body and mind in a holistic way that has kept me anchored through these turbulent times.
“The perseverance we need today is a basic tool for the potter.”
Inspiration also comes from spending time in the bush observing the shapes, colours and surfaces found in nature, Max says.
“As well as the making processes involved in transforming this most basic elemental plastic material into expressive form.
“I like the end product to reveal the honesty of the materials by leaving some exposed clay body on show, along with the effects created by the alchemy of multiply firings building up different glaze layers.”
A range of large ‘water bowls’ that can be used outdoors as bird baths, and a selection of vases and platters will be on offer, but also a range of large-scale works that will form a unique centrepiece to any indoor design.
“Besides producing useful objects, clay can sometimes result in ceramic work that can satisfy not only the maker but also engages others and adds richness to their daily rituals,” Max says.
Beyond the surface
A graduate of the National Arts School, East Sydney Technical College, and Monash University, Max Powell came to ceramics through the art of glazing.
“Painting the surface has always been my focus and with these new works I have tried to develop stronger forms that compliment the surface but still make their own statement,” he says.
A Glen Innes-based secondary and TAFE art teacher, he has a longstanding reputation for high standards of artistic practice in the region.
“I love the sense of community,” he says, “and the open landscape that lets you escape to the nearby majestic national parks. I love the seasonal changes that shape our lives”.
“Inspiration is everywhere: moss, lichen, a rock, a piece of wood, the landscape and the rich history of ceramics and the many stories that get mixed into the clay.”
Powell cites artists like Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Lloyd Rees, Elizabeth Cummings and Angus Nivison as influences throughout his career, which started in arts education but quickly moved on to public art commissions and exhibitions throughout the New England region.
“I feel privileged that I have been able to spend my time making art, responding to the world around and engaging with like-minded people,” he says.
FormWork runs until November 28 at The Makers Shed, 123 Grey Street Glen Innes