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Anita McIntyre :: ancient land / silica lines

Anita McIntyre's exhibition of ceramics, ancient land / silica lines was held at Beaver Gallery in Canberra 2 - 20 September, 2004. Ann McMahon reviewed the exhibition.     Also see  Gallery



ancient land / silica lines by Anita McIntyre reminded viewers of the fundamental origins of ceramic materials. Not only is porcelain derived from the landscape, its colours, textures and history were invoked by McIntyre's work. Her inspiration was drawn form extensive travel through the outback, the top end and the Kimberlies in particular.

Working with slabs and plates, using a combination of techniques, McIntyre invoked the idea of tectonic movement and geological time. High firing causes silicate materials to fuse and McIntyre's pieces were rock-like with hard, rough, pitted surfaces. The works, formed by the same elemental forces that shape the landscape, were subjected to the actions of water, physical pressure and the transformative, metamorphic effects of intense heat.

The bauxite red of the northwest was captured through the use of slips and terra sigillata. For ancient land / silica lines, McIntyre used earth pigments dug from Alan Watt's property at Tanja. An age-old surface treatment, terra sigillata can be unpredictable, and McIntyre says, "The colour varies with different firing temperatures." Through the familiar and quintessentially Central Australian red, the underlying porcelain showed a bleached white. It suggested that weathering had uncovered the very bones of the earth. It was a reminder of the age of our continent where the earth's oldest sediments are exposed by erosion. It also recalls a history of occupation by generations that have left only traces and bodily remains that have been embraced by the red earth.

To suggest the layering of strata and the intrusion of fossils into the geological record, McIntyre used millefiori, a technique also used in glass. She combined different coloured clays in a long roll that was cut up to provide repeated motifs. The technique was used to great effect in two groups of framed works, where the greys and pinks of the millefiori and delicate marks produced by mono-printing were set off by contrasting black matt board surrounds.

Presenting the prints on 'Southern Ice' porcelain rolled into fine sheets played on the notion that there is a separation between fine art and craft mediums. McIntyre's works insisted on the permeability of ideological boundaries. The audience was tempted to assume they were looking at works on paper until they read the labels, which clearly listed the medium as clays, slips and porcelain.


In McIntyre's work, materials, concepts, histories and techniques came together in a marriage of aesthetics and ideas. A series of vessels, acknowledging the functional possibilities of ceramics, bore scratchy images of skeletal fish in a ground of desert red. Rather than engaging in dialogue about craft as a design practice, McIntyre's pieces demanded to be read as unique objects. They were also pointed statements about Australia's environmental history and the current inland water crisis.

The idea was repeated in larger boat forms. They recalled a time when rivers were prone to cycles of flooding that favour the propagation and proliferation of Murray cod and other native fish species. Also vital arteries for transportation, rivers were used as inland highways by a variety of barges, boats, canoes and dinghies. McIntyre's landscape references in ancient land / silica lines were sensitively informed by her ethical and spiritual convictions and expressed through the elemental ceramic process.

Ann McMahon is a freelance writer and artist based in Canberra.
October 2004

Also see  Gallery