Sneak peek: Kristen Coelho

Thanks to our friends at Wakefield Press, here is a sneak peek at a foreword about Kristen Coelho, written by Wendy Walker.

Kristen Coelho typifies what it is to be a maker of thrown pots today. She is a part of a lineage of Australian artists, who draw inspiration from the English studio tradition and makers such as Bernard Leach and Lucie Rie, but have now created their own uniquely singular vision. Other influences are wide-ranging and multifarious, from film to Chinese and Korean forms, especially those that inspired potters before her, such as moon pots from Korea and Song dynasty Chinese pots with their thick opaque glazes, to the weathered landscapes of the work of the late Australian artist Rosalie Gascoigne. Importantly, Coelho has spent extensive time in the United Kingdom and the imprint of the memory, of all the pots she may have seen there and those she has made, leaves a trace that seeps into her work.

It’s a particular trope in the language of pottery that writers often talk about the handling of works by the artist they are being asked to discuss. When it comes to the work of those potters, who make vessels that sit on the uneasy boarder between use and a hands-off admiration, cliché finds an easy path.

I count myself lucky to have two cups, which I have quickly taken to using everyday. Up close, you can observe the way the base touches the tabletop. It is solid and robust – something she may have learnt through the influence of Bernard Leach standard ware – and it’s never going to tip. You notice the slow curve into the base that could be glaze or could be turned trick, they hypnotic eggshell-blue interior and the soft point of the rim as you sip. The cup never fails to be enjoyable to handle and it’s through this kind of pragmatic, everyday use that Coelho’s work create an important connection – the loop between maker, user and object.

Coelho works almost exclusively with high-fired porcelain and the generous nature of her forms, throwing and construction should be at odds with their tonal ethereality but, as art, they fit somewhere between these opposites. It is these kinds of simple dichotomies that drive ceramics as an art. There is inherent in clay, as a material, the capacity to be beyond human memory to the deep time of geology. It’s a spirit that compels makers to keep returning to each new shape, to the sacred time at the workbench in the studio and the unfamiliar alchemical moment when the kiln door opens.

There is nothing new, yet it is always new, over and over, endless and forever. Coelho mines the forms that our minds and eyes know, and they are right there at the end of our fingertips.

Glenn Barkley, February 2020

To continue reading, head into your local bookstore or visit Wakefield Press to secure your own copy!

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