Opening address - Megan Puls Silt October 2016
Dr Tamsin Kerr, Cooroora Institute Director speaks at Makers Gallery
I want to start this talk by acknowledging the traditional owners of this place, the many Ygar language peoples of this region. Just north of here along Kedron Brook in Nundah was a very big camp and meeting site for locals and visitors. It was the crossroads for major tracks, was teeming with fish and food under the trees, and was a major site for ceremony and dance. By the 1890s as colonial Brisbane expanded, the initial cooperation between whites and blacks had substantially diminished. One exception, the Stephanie Outridge Field of her day, Mrs Spence lived at Riverton Street in Clayfield, and was reported to: “attend regularly to sick and distressed Aborigine from Nundah and Breakfast Creek camps” right up until the 1930s. Today, with a optimism not reflected in our mediated news, I see the Indigenous philosophy of living with a more-than-human family and of understanding place as a key identifier, begin to trickle down to us all.
So here we are in Clayfield: a marvelously named suburb for a Ceramic Gallery and a description of a place every potter needs to know about. A large field of clay and ceramic to be mined, explored, and celebrated.
Today we celebrate the stunning work of Megan Puls in “Silt”, her major exhibition for 2016.
Silt comes from sand and becomes clay, silt is transformative, silt is fine and silken, silt is what our clay studios absorb and release, silt holds all the promises of clay, and this exhibition shows its virtuosity and its capacity to form lived objects, worthy of holding and treasuring. Megan has taken a thing often treated without respect (the river mouth silted up, that dirt’s structure reduced to silt) and has turned it into a promise of hope and creativity while acknowledging its dark and shadowy nature.
This work comes from the earth both literally and figuratively. Made of the earth and inspired by its rhythms, it sings of the ground upon which we stand.
A mostly solitary practice of patience that stems from an artistic groundedness that seems particular to potters and those who work with natural materials and ideas drawn from the environment. Megan says her inspiration grows as her work develops, always in partnership with the natural world. Her work speaks of the gentle harmonies of decaying wood; the slow transformations of nature through rust, the dank dark wet places of wracklines, ebbtides, and wetlands; the elemental power of lava and fire. In many of her pieces here, there is a strong sense of the sea’s craft and the sand’s drifts along with the many flotsam and jetsam, animal and plant sentinences that inhabit both. Without this connection to nature and its own artistry, our human artistry would lose much of its meaning.
We live in an age of haste and waste, but we are increasingly questioning such lifestyle choices (note: I use the phrase “lifestyle choices” quite differently from the way the term has been applied recently by politicians to the lives of students of the arts). What better way to celebrate slow craft and careful recycling of ceramic materials than in a Megan Puls exhibition? Here is a careful practice, each pierced piece, each carved creation, adds to the slow beauty of our humanities; such art reminds us that not only are we human but we are also humane. Megan’s art connects us so that we become the best in ourselves as we ease into the ecological flow that surrounds us.
Just as black and white makes the text on the page, the layered cultures of our landscapes, here in this gallery, the black and white forms tell a strong story; a collaboration between materials that we were often taught should not be combined, porcelain and recycled clay scraps form a harmonious whole and offer a hopeful metaphor for our future. Continuing to make art as a counteraction to despair (and indeed madness) is a brave act. As audience and patrons, by consuming courageous creativity: we help build the world anew; we support innovative techniques and fine forms that speak of the real world we inhabit - not an administrivial beancounting abstraction, but a biophysical world full of awe and wonder. We make a commitment to fine craft in the makers’ hand as well as in our homes and ourselves. We might love our humanity, see life in our objects and sustainability in our places. The promises of a fine layer of silt indeed!
It is a great pleasure to be part of this optimism for the best we can be, in this light and airy space of the Makers Gallery, amidst such beautiful reminders as that which Megan’s work offers. Congratulations to Megan Puls (and Stephanie Outridge Field), who in the face of it all, continue to contribute such generous and connected beauty for us to admire.
Exhibition opened, 30 October and continuing until 27 November 2016, at Makers Gallery, 53 Jackson St, Clayfield 4011, Queensland.