Australian Contemporary, A Survey of a Sense of Place

Australian Contemporary, A Survey of a Sense of Place

Essay by Stephen Bowers 2004 (this is an extract from the original essay)

Merran Esson (New South Wales) has lived in the vast interior of inland Australia a well as amid the intensely urban confines of its largest cosmopolitan city – Sydney. Her work expresses the contrast between these extremes. Stunned by the way physical environment imposes boundaries on scale, form and function, Esson produces vigorous clay vessels (often pierced) that invite an exploration of the polarities of inside/outside, interior/exterior and belonging/exclusion. Esson is also inspired by the vagaries of texture and its reflection in the Australian landscape, particularly where there is a contrast between the environmental and the industrial; her large vessels have unique textural properties which probe vernacular ideas about surface and form. Investigating concerns of identity and location, Esson’s works respond to different physical environments and re-evaluate scale, form and function. Recent works, begun in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains near Tumbarumba in NSW in south eastern Australia are rural in origin but have an industrial scale. Esson combines liner patterns of the land as seen from the air with surfaces that resemble aged and corroded metal, as found in abandoned water tanks left to rust in back paddocks.


Stephen Bowers is the director of Jam Factory Contemporary Craft and Design in Adelaide. South Australia. He was co-ordinator of Australian Contemporary shown at Collect 2005. Photography is by Greg Piper.
Australian Contemporary is an initiative of the Visual Arts Board of the Australia Council, the Federal Government’s arts funding body, through its International Craft Strategy.
This extract is reprinted from Ceramics: Art and Perception Issue No 58 2004. 120 Glenmore Rd, Paddington. NSW 2021. Australia.
©Stephen Bowers 2004. All rights reserved