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Marea Gazzard - a brief encounter

Also read: Winners 26th Gold Coast International Ceramic Art Award media release

I first met Gordon Foulds at the Verge conference in Brisbane in 2006 and we kept in touch - a generous, spirited man, youthful beyond his years; easy to converse with - a gift.

We rode the lift to Marea Gazzard's talk. That is why I was at the gallery and, of course, to see the exhibition. It was there, in the lift, that we found ourselves with Marea Gazzard. Introductions were made, wise eyes, present, "yes, I know your work" she comments. It was a chance encounter, one that will be remembered, humbly, like the chance encounter with Arthur Boyd.

The talk was wonderfully inspirational and historical. All her images were presented on slides and as Marea stated, to quiet chuckles, "the thought of transferring my slides to digital, well, I could not be bothered really."

A daunting task for anyone, let alone from a practice dating from the 1950s. For me this also raised the issue of capturing our history of Australian ceramics in a broader context, our images along with the stories. This is an issue at Craft Australia also, where I work. We are in the process of digitising a 30 year image history of craft and design, with very little, and at times, no funding. A very laborious process and a race against time as the slides continue to deteriorate.

We meandered through a life and some times from the Central School of Art Craft and Design in England (1958/1959) delighting us with images of student work, then we find ourselves in Bermuda throwing ashtrays (prior to 1959), a small show in Montreal, and back in Australia for the birth of a son (1960).

Words, moments, impressions stay.

Arriving at the Hungary Horse Gallery in Sydney, Marea says of her work at this time, "working in groups - an armful."... "a squashed feeling of the third dimension." Feeling the truth of the work fills you. 1966 Gallery A, "... nothing is longer than the kiln you've got." How everyone relates. Images from the Dials Series 1969, astoundingly like a self-portrait, 40 year on.

Time jumps to 1973. We've landed at the Victorian Art Gallery (as it was known then). Hessing and Gazzard. Fibre and Clay. The first craftspeople invited to exhibit at the gallery and over 1,000 people attending the opening. I make a note to remind myself to look in the Craft Australia slide archive for images of the exhibition. The work for the exhibition was made at Sturt in Mittagong (and yes, on kiln shelves).

We see the "Uluru Woman", the Hobart drawings, then the 1980s and President of the World Crafts Council in New York. Sydney and a studio at the Dance Company.

Marea's encounter with glazes is brief. "I don't like what glazes do." However her love for burnishing is inspirational. 1983 and she 'considers it to be the most important work of her career.' She is talking of her sculptural work, Mingarri: The Little Olgas, within the Prime Ministers courtyard at Parliament House. The work is a massive feat, first made in clay with walls 4" thick. Preventing the cracking was a task not forgotten.

Post parliament house and pre her commission of works in 2004 for the Greek Olympic Games Marea was the recipient of an Australian Creative Fellowship. This was an income for 3 years where she was able to devote the entire time to her work.

Relaying my impressions of the talks and the exhibition to colleagues in the Craft Australia library we notice the book by Christine France, "Marea Gazzard Form and Clay. An abundance of information and images for those interested.

Most recently, in 2008, of the exhibition Thalassa at Utopia Art Sydney - "This body of work reveals an artist at the peak of their powers, unafraid to tread on unfamiliar ground."

Avi Amesbury
September 2008