2017 Program pt 1

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Holly Macdonald

Opening 05.07.18 6-8pm
Artist Talks 27.07.18 6-7pm

Does the description ‘dysfunctional’ imply that something isn’t working? Or does it imply that something is working in ways that it shouldn’t? It is a relative term that responds to the way a thing is defined in the first place i.e. is the thing a teacup or a t-shirt or a sculpture? If the thing is undefined or ambiguous, function and dysfunction become interchangeable in positioning ourselves in relation to the thing.

Dysfunctional, the exhibition, presents as a series of trials that use conventional ceramic techniques and materials subversively in order to destroy the idea of the functional vessel. Obsolescence of function is realised by uncoiling the vessel, cutting into and away at its form, pummeling it out flat. The vessel departs the plinth, and is relocated on the wall, suspended from the ceiling, and relegated to the floor. As the clay object is deconstructed the focus shifts from form to medium, eluding definitions such as ‘bowl’, ‘vase’ or ‘cup’. Theatrical small-scale installations use humour and the absurd as exuberant strategies to implicate the vessel in its own reimagining.

In this project of redefinition, one might look to theorist (and ceramicist) Paul Mathieu who observes that, “If handmade objects have become largely useless in a practical sense, they nonetheless remain socially essential, as receptacles for the imagination and memory of humankind, memory of knowledge and experiences” (p. 125, 2007). More recently, Jenni Sorkin has looked past the ceramic object to the temporal, spatial and psychological conditions of its production. Sorkin examines the recent history of the discipline through recourse to key women practitioners whose engagement with the medium was performative, collaborative and pedagogical in nature (2016).

The impulse to redefine seems ironic, considering Dysfunctional reacts against the characteristic limitations of definition. A new set of criteria expands into the vacant space of possibility that the functional vessel previously occupied. A pause between is in order. As Albert Camus said “Avec le vide, les pleins pouvoirs” (“With the void comes unrestricted power!”) (My exclamation.)


Gogarty, A, Mireille, P & Chambers, R (eds.) 2007, ‘Object Theory’ by Paul Mathieu, in Utopic Impulses, Ronsdale Press, Vancouver, p. 111-127

Sorkin, J 2016, Live Form, University of Chicago Press, Chicago


Holly Macdonald is a maker of objects and material observations. Her art practice is founded in ceramics and combines painting, drawing, installation and hand building in clay to explore notions of memory and the uncertain nature of perception. Using the handmade ceramic object as an agent, she interrogates the relationship between process and product, touch and vision, object and image.

Holly graduated from NAS with a BFA (ceramics) in 2014. For her graduate body of work she was awarded the Sabbia Gallery Exhibition Prize and the Mansfield Ceramic Prize. Since graduating she has presented work in a number of exhibitions including in 2016 her first solo show About Place (Sabbia Gallery), group shows including Permanent Vacation (ALASKA Projects [William St]), Stuck in the Mud (Verge Gallery, Sydney), Landlines (Curve Gallery, Newcastle) and the 30th Gold Coast International Ceramic Award Exhibition. In 2016 Holly was a resident artist at Experimental Ceramics and was featured in the Thames & Hudson book ‘CLAY’. She is a board member of The Australian Ceramics Association and has contributed time and enthusiasm to organisations such as Firstdraft, Kaldor Public Art Projects and more recently West Space (Melbourne). Holly is currently completing Honours in Fine Art at RMIT, Melbourne.

Earlier Event: June 24
Around the Outside #2: LOST
Later Event: July 6
Art, Agency, Action: Sydney