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Powerhouse: ‘Clay Dynasty’ charts 50 years of Australian studio ceramics

Powerhouse: ‘Clay Dynasty’ charts 50 years of Australian studio ceramics

WATCH: Global architecture, art and design highlights, including the ‘Clay Dynasty’ exhibition at the Powerhouse Museum.

Proudly supported by Brickworks, a major exhibition charting 50 years of studio ceramic practice in Australia is planned to open at the Powerhouse Museum on August 20. Bringing together works from 168 Australian artists, ‘Clay Dynasty’ will celebrate local studio ceramics, as shaped by three generations of makers. The exhibition will present more than 450 works from the Powerhouse collection and spotlight 70 new commissions and acquisitions from Australian artists.

“The Powerhouse collection of Australian studio ceramics is the most significant in Australia,” says Lisa Havilah, chief executive of the Powerhouse Museum. “We are committed to continuing to support contemporary Australian artists and documenting this significant field of practice for future generations.”

Night Portraits II (2021) by Lynda Draper (also pictured above).

The making of ‘Clay Dynasty’

The ‘Clay Dynasty’ exhibit will feature works by “pioneer” potters who profoundly changed the course of Australian studio ceramics in the 1960s. Led by the English potter Bernard Leach’s interest in pre-industrial ceramic traditions of Europe and East Asia, these makers produced a new kind of Australian object, using local materials and responding to the Australian environment. 

Alongside the functional tradition, the exhibition will explore the quest for artistic expression. Objects from the 1970s will illustrate the impact of the American Funk art movement and popular culture in Australia, while works from the 1980s will reveal how Australian artists explored the vessel tradition through postmodern forms, colours and patterns. 

Highlighting contemporary artists who are at the forefront of the medium today, ‘Clay Dynasty’ will showcase new works from across Australia. Commissioned by the Powerhouse Museum in 2020-21, these works see makers exploring historical and cultural traditions, pop-culture and current social issues to create contemporary works. 

“As the first major exhibition exploring studio ceramic practice in Australia from the 1960s to now, ‘Clay Dynasty’ reveals a field of dedicated artists, teachers and communities,” says Eva Czernis-Ryl, curator of the exhibition. Continuing this legacy, the Powerhouse has partnered with local ceramic studios to develop a masterclass program that coincides with the exhibition, where guest artists will explore a range of ceramic techniques.

Trilogy (2018) by Simone Fraser.

‘Clay Dynasty’ – works on show

Artists presenting in ‘Clay Dynasty’ include Gamilaroi artist Penny Evans; South Australian artist Honor Freeman; Brisbane artist Nicolette Johnson; National Art School (Sydney) trained artist Juz Kitson; accomplished Tiwi ceramist and woodcarver Jock Puautjimi; National Art School lecturer Ebony Russell; London-based sculptor Renee So; Vipoo Srivilasa and Queensland-based artist Kenji Uranishi.

Alongside commissioned works, ‘Clay Dynasty’ will present works recently acquired by the Powerhouse, including works by internationally renowned Western Australian artist Pippin Drysdale; head of ceramics at the National Art School Lynda Draper; Luritja/Pintupi painter and ceramic artist Pepai Jangala Carroll; Sydney based artist Ramesh Mario Nithiyendran; Rona Panangka Rubuntja, award-winning artist and member of Hermannsburg Potters; Pitjanjatjara/Yankunytjatjara senior artist Carlene Thompson at Ernabella (Pukatja) Arts and contemporary potter Roswitha Wulff. Acclaimed artists Peter Cooley, Jeffery Mincham AM and Toni Warburton will also be featured.

Works from the Museum’s collection include ground-breaking pieces by Marea Gazzard AM, Gwyn Hanssen Pigott OAM, Margaret Dodd’s iconic Two blues Holden ceramic car which feminised the iconically macho FJ Holden of the 1970s; Joan Ground’s 1973 ceramic postal parcels and a rare collection of the earliest pottery made by Indigenous Australian makers in 1968–74 at the Bagot Pottery in Darwin, Northern Territory.


As the first major exhibition exploring studio ceramic practice in Australia from the 1960s to now, Clay Dynasty reveals a field of dedicated artists, teachers and communities.

Eva Czernis-Ryl Curator, ‘Clay Dynasty’

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