Three trees, South Coast, 2002, glazed ceramic tile, 20 x 20cm
Investigating notions of place, Noel McKenna (b.1956) works across painting, watercolour, sculpture and ceramics. His works are seen as a mode of storytelling through the unity of natural, structural and human elements.
McKenna works in a naïve style yet it his is a highly considered arts practice. He is a prodigious maker of prints, artist books, ceramics, paintings and sculpture that humorously depict aspects of everyday life.
McKenna has been awarded the Wynne Prize for watercolour five times and is regularly shortlisted for the Archibald, Wynne and Sulman Prizes. McKenna’s work has been featured in many significant national and international group exhibitions, including most recently in CERAMIX at Manly Art Gallery & Museum, Sydney (2021).
Josephine Nangala (b.1950)
Untitled, 2005, acrylic on canvas, 38 x 46cm
Josephine Nangala was born c.1950 and is a Kukatja Manyjilyjarra woman from the Kiwirrkurra community, Papunya Tula Artists.
Josephine grew up with her family travelling between Nyirla, her traditional Country, and the Canning Stock Route, Western Australia. She lived in Balgo before moving to the Kiwirrkura community with her husband, artist Charlie Wallabi Tjungurrayi.
Nangala has exhibited widely; her work featured most recently in Sydney Contemporary 2019 at Carriageworks, and in ‘Community XI’ at Utopia Art Sydney the same year.
This work was recently donated to our collection by former MAG&M Director, Dr Therese Kenyon, along with five other paintings by artists Yuyuya Nampitjinpa, Nanyuma Napangati, Imelda Yukenbarri Gugaman, Theresa Nowee and Pirrmangka Napanangka.
Supported by a Gordon Darling Foundation travel grant in 2005, Kenyon travelled to Aboriginal art centres across Australia with collector Helen Read. The works acquired during that trip have been generously donated, expanding MAG&M’s collection of First Nations art and culture.
Weeping Funnel and Dish, 2015, porcelain, white matt glaze, copper red glaze & decals, Funnel: 28cm h x 24.5cm dia Dish: 6cm h x 28cm dia
“These graffiti-like inscriptions described experiences of being interned in a foreign land because of infectious disease on the ships that carried Chinese passengers far from the Republic of China.
The functional vessel, and its association with food, has been of significant interest to me as an artist working in the field of ceramics. Amongst Q Station’s heritage collection were vessels used for the preparation of food during periods of the Station’s 151 years of operation. Many containers in the collection were white enamel pots and pans, mostly used for the preparation of food for the non-Asian interned. The Chinese cooked and ate separately, as segregation from the non-Asian quarantined was an established social and cultural norm during the Station’s history.”
“Artwork created for this exhibition combined these two points of interests. Ceramic containers, produced during my residency in Jingdezhen, China, were transported to Sydney from China. They act as metaphors for cultural difference, separation and transmigration. They also convey narratives, in the form of weeping Chinese characters, transcribed from the weathered sandstone at the North Head Quarantine Station. The stories are poignant reminders of hardship, loss and estrangement experienced by early Chinese visitors and migrants to Australia’s shores.”
Julie has generously donated this piece for the 2015 exhibition to MAG&M’s collection.
Image courtesy Grant Hancock Photography
Dawn (March Past series), terracotta with underglaze and glazes, 76 x 37 x 25cm
Billy Bain is a proud Darug man and Northern Beaches local whose art practice spans ceramics and painting. MAG&M and MAG&M Society joined forces and resources to purchase ‘Dawn’, the flag bearer in his installation titled ‘March Past’ and a key work in his solo exhibition.
The March Past is a traditional team event held during surf lifesaving carnivals. Heavily influenced by marches performed by military servicemen, the March Past represents the discipline of surf life savers. The march is led by the bearer, who carries the flag which signifies which club or beach the march is from.
Bain posits that “the March Past is a ritualistic and militant performance of colonial ownership over the beach space. The act of using a flag to signify ownership of place is inextricably linked to Australia’s colonisation. Bain places Indigenous figures in the March Past carrying a flag emblazoned with the name of the original custodians of the Manly area. The work implies a reclamation of the beach space which was never ceded.”
Bloom (Medusozoans series), 2019, porcelain, deep blue underglaze and crawl glaze, dimensions variable, series of 5. Gift of the artist 2022
MAG&M’s ceramics gallery has been invaded by a bloom of jellyfish created and donated by Simon Reece. Indicative of the collapse of oceanic ecosystems as a result of rubbish in the food chain, large blooms of jellyfish are appearing in our oceans, highlighting the detrimental effect on ecosystems of global warming.
Beautiful as they are in nature, jellyfish take over an environment where other creatures are unable to exist. Universal flotsam and our jettisoned waste is our responsibility but what is being created from our waste is something that is both terrifying and compellingly beautiful in its existence. These ceramic pieces are made by manipulating the surface, pushing out and infiltrating, almost invading the space.
Simon Reece is primarily a vessel maker for utilitarian ceramics who looks for ways to contextualise an idea of form or texture into a vessel.
Sydney Harbour, 2019, oil on linen
Rodney Pople (b.1952) is an interdisciplinary artist who works across various mediums including painting, photography and sculpture. Sydney Harbour is a significant recent work by this Sydney artist, and is a most welcome and generous donation by Felicity Fenner.
In this painting, a group of penguins is shown stranded on an iceberg in Sydney Harbour. The iceberg, the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge glow with a light that seems to somehow emanate from behind the dark canvas. This kind of mysterious, almost dream-like scene is typical of Pople’s paintings.
The subject matter of this painting is also relevant as one of MAG&M’s collection foci is Sydney Harbour. In December 2021, alongside the Destination Sydney exhibition, MAG&M plans to curate a harbour themed exhibition drawn from the collection. This painting by Rodney Pople will sit well alongside works by Kevin Connor and Wendy Sharpe, and among the etchings, drawings, paintings and photographs currently in the collection on the same theme.
'Temporal Fluidity No 6', 2019, Dehua porcelain
MAG&M’s most recent acquisition is by contemporary ceramic artist Juz Kitson, who grew up on the Northern Beaches and was the inaugural winner of the 'Express Yourself' Theo Batten Youth Art Award in 2005.
Working out of her studios in regional NSW and the historic town Jingdezhen, the 'porcelain capital' of China, Kitson's work explores the relationship between the ephemerality of humankind and the varied mix of flora and fauna in our environment. This piece, part of her most recent series of work, looks at the grand themes of evolution and extinction.
Kitson (b.1987) graduated from The National Art School in 2009 and has exhibited both nationally and internationally in solo and group exhibitions.
Please Don’t Pick Flowers - 2019 ed 3/8hand coloured pigment print on cotton rag paper
Joan Ross (b.1962) Please Don’t Pick Flowers 2019 ed 3/8 hand coloured pigment print on cotton rag paper, 83 x 118cm, Purchased by MAG&M 2019
Joan Ross’ artworks often combine colonial iconography and landscape painting with montaged symbols of western culture. They examine the imposition of colonialism in Australia, especially concerning its effect on indigenous Australians, drawing attention to the complex and ongoing issues surrounding first contact. The use of fluorescent yellow and high-visibility clothing in Ross’ work symbolises colonisation, highlighting the foreign disruption of western culture into the natural order of this place.
The relevance of the title of this work, Please don’t pick flowers, resonates in Manly as the picking of native flowers in the area, especially at North Head, for the annual ‘Manly Wildflower Show’ (1881-99) led to the widespread destruction on native flora. MAG&M purchased this work recently, making it one of the newest collection acquisitions. Ross’ work also currently features on the Sydney Modern hoarding at the Art Gallery of NSW.
Untitled, 1984, oil on canvas
Elisabeth Cummings, Untitled, 1984, oil on canvas, 122 x 112cm
Elisabeth Cummings (b.1934), is one of Australia’s most respected painters who has spent the last sixty years developing work that shifts between abstraction and figuration, inspired by the Australian bush yet drawn from memory. Her contribution as a teacher at the National Art School for thirty years from 1969 and as a member of the Wedderburn artists’ colony have contributed significantly to the story of Australian art.
Untitled, 1984 is a very good example of the abstract nature of Cummings’ landscape paintings during the early 1980s. MAG&M is very pleased with the generous donation by Peter Boehm. It complements MAG&M’s current holdings of two small paintings from the 1970s and four more recent etchings. MAG&M has featured Cummings’ work in two major exhibitions; Destination Sydney in 2015 and Harbour Life in 2008.
Cummings’ large paintings are distinguished by impastoed surfaces and ebullient colour. At the time this was painted, the artist was living and working extensively in her studio at Wedderburn NSW, paying very close attention to her surrounds. The property is mostly native bushland and, except for the studio and its immediate surrounds, nothing much has altered the look of the landscape. Judging by the rich colour, it suggests Springtime and the richness of the growing season. It also depicts Kenny's dam which is at the end of the walking track near the property.
'All that remains series - Binoculars', 2009, archival pigment print
Chuck Bradley, 'All that remains series - Binoculars', 2009, archival pigment print, 1 of 25, 61.4 x 61.4cm
In celebration of MAG&M’s 90th anniversary, American-born photographer Chuck Bradley (b.1959) has donated two works to the MAG&M Collection including, 'All that Remains series – Binoculars', 2009.
The artwork featured on the cover of MAG&M’s 2009 exhibition ‘Offshore: Artists of Scotland Island & Pittwater’s Western Foreshore’ and was part of a series of photographs developed in the aftermath of a Newport marina fire in 2009, which destroyed several boats. Bradley said, “As we all helped over the coming days to recover whatever we could from the ashes, I started to see a strange beauty in all the destruction. Objects that we used onboard regularly, became beautiful in their charred state. I collected what I could salvage to document All that Remains’.
Chuck Bradley was based on the Northern Beaches for many years, living on Scotland Island in Pittwater and working from a studio in Brookvale. His long relationship with MAG&M has included a solo exhibition 'Nostalgica' in 2013 and a period as artist-in-residence, creating still life installations from our museum objects collection.
Through the generosity of artists like Chuck Bradley, MAG&M's Collection continues to grow - and represent the works of many of Australia's most significant artists.
J. Richard Ashton
Sailboat at The Spit, c.1960, oil on board
J. Richard Ashton, Sailboat at The Spit, c.1960, oil on board, 29.5 x 39cm, MAG&M Collection
Sailboat at The Spit, (oil on board, 30.5 x 40.5cm, c.1960) by J. Richard Ashton has recently been acquired from the artist’s estate for which MAG&M is most grateful. The painting depicts a Middle Harbour shoreline of boathouses as a dinghy is about to set sail.
Julian Richard Ashton was born in Melbourne in 1913, the youngest son of Howard and Ethel Ashton (and grandson of Julian Rossi Ashton). The family moved to Balmoral Beach, Sydney, when Richard was four. He attended the Sydney Art School from 1932 and had several successful exhibitions including one at the Macquarie Galleries.
In 1935 Richard joined Alan Villiers on his square-rigger, Joseph Conrad, for an eventful sea voyage. This resulted in marine paintings and etchings for Richard’s one-man show in Sydney, 1936. Ashton then worked as a free-lance artist and participated in exhibitions with the Society of Artists, the Australian Watercolour Institute, and the Royal Art Society of NSW. In 1939 he married Wenda Elliott-Smith; they had four children.
Richard enlisted in the AIF in 1941 and served as war artist in New Guinea and northern Australia. Co-opted to the Military History Section he recorded civil defence installations and anti-aircraft crews. After his discharge in 1945 he worked with the NSW Department of Tourism in various positions involving photography, design and publicity.
In 1953, Richard won the Mosman Art Prize with Wollongong Boat Harbour. In 1961, he became director of the Julian Ashton Art School and moved to North Curl Curl. In the 1970s he was awarded a Churchill Travelling Scholarship. He is represented in major Australian institutions and private collections. In the 1980s, his son Philip took over the art school. Richard Ashton died in 2001, aged eighty-seven.
Over the years Ashton’s palette lightened as he developed an impressionistic style of realism. His nude studies and landscapes are fine works but when Ashton painted ocean and harbour, his art was at its best. Sailboat at the Spit not only evokes the artist’s love of sailing but also records a bygone era. As a glimpse into Sydney’s maritime past, the painting is a fine addition to MAG&M’s collection of harbour and beach culture.
Written by Dr Susan Steggall, author and MAG&M Society Member
Artists & Galleries of Australia, Max Germaine, Volume 1, Craftsman House, 1979, p.21.
By the Sea. Retrospective Exhibition, 30 August, Freshwater, 2020
Sapper Richard Ashton, Australian War Memorial, https://www.awm.gov.au/collection
'Blue Harbour', 2018, oil on linen
'Blue Harbour' by Archibald Prize-winning artist, Wendy Sharpe (b.1960), with its vast view north across the Harbour, incorporates a self-portrait of the artist herself amidst some of Sydney’s key landmarks - the Harbour Bridge, Customs House and Circular Quay - illuminated and shimmering at night. Sharpe created this work by first making small sketches in pencil and gouache during her artist-in-residency at a law firm on Bligh St, with a harbour view. Working the sketches up into the vibrant and colourful 'Blue Harbour' painting back in her studio, Sharpe remarked that “at night everything looks more magical and mysterious”.
Both of these new acquisitions were purchased and donated by the MAG&M Society to mark the Gallery’s 90th birthday in 2020.
Ern Malley Series – The Darkening Ecliptic - Petit Testament, Ceramic box
Garry Shead (b.1942), Ern Malley Series – The Darkening Ecliptic - Petit Testament, Ceramic box, 29 x 21.5 x 6cm, 9 etchings, each 15 x 22cm Ed. 32/50. Printed by Basil Hall Editions
Encased in a ceramic box is a series of nine etchings which form a gridded image from artist Garry Shead’s renowned Ern Malley series. It forms part of a larger gift of 17 items recently donated to MAG&M by the artist through the Federal Government’s Cultural Gifts Program.
As a narrative painter and printmaker, Garry Shead is one of Australia’s most respected artists who has spent the last sixty years developing a unique and distinctive style. Shead’s lyrical paintings and prints, created from the artist’s furtive imagination and memory, and inspired by Australian culture, have contributed significantly to the story of Australian art. This work is based on the infamous Australian Ern Malley hoax, and specifically on Malley’s poem ‘The Darkening Ecliptic’ which was published in the 1944 Autumn issue of the Angry Penguins magazine. The poem which is the subject of the image had been highly praised, even though Sydney poets James McAuley and Harold Stewart admitted that the work was farcical and cynically created by them to prove that the Melbourne literary scene could not tell the difference between great poetry and something lesser.
Garry Shead (b.1942) trained at the National Art School, Sydney between 1961 and 1962. His work has been included in group exhibitions including the Archibald, Wynne, Sulman and Moran Prizes at the Art Gallery of New South Wales. Shead was awarded the Young Contemporaries Prize by the Central Art School in Sydney, 1967, the Archibald Prize in 1993 and the Cite Internationale des Arts, Paris through the Power Institute in 1973. He was artist in residence at Karolyi Foundation Studio in Venice through the Victorian Arts Board in 1982 and has completed residencies with the Indigenous artists of Lockhart River. Shead’s work is held by the National Gallery of Australia, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Art Gallery of South Australia, and numerous regional galleries. Several monographs on his work have been published
Sailor Pete's Crew, 2021, 2 hand painted moulded figurines, various clays
Sassy Park, Sailor Pete's Crew, 2021, 2 hand painted moulded figurines, various clays, 20 x 6 x 6 cm approx. signed and editioned
Two small figurines of Sailor Pete by artist Sassy Park, featured in the Ceramix exhibition at MAG&M (May-June 2021), were purchased through funds provided by Northern Beaches Council.
Sailor Pete is depicted in a film by Sassy Park with her collaborator and musician Mara Schwerdtfeger whereby Sailor Pete is a character at home in Kings Cross, Sydney. From the humorous proposition that a ceramic figure is invested with feelings and emotions, the film follows Sailor Pete as he wanders his neighbourhood in the style of a flâneur. With his own theme music and starring role, the yearning of this landlocked sailor is transformed as he chances upon the beauty that surrounds him. Kings Cross provides the setting where love, magic and significance lie at hand.
Accompanying the film are a pair of pots with projections and music composed in response to the simple scenes of beauty Sailor Pete encounters on his journey. Tropes of cinema, ceramics and sea faring are given a witty, low-fi and affectionate approach. The work ultimately explores themes of object agency and how we impart our own desires and life into inanimate objects.
Sassy Park is a graduate from the National Art School in Sydney with a Masters degree in ceramics. Previous degrees and awards include a Bachelor of Visual Arts from Sydney College of the Arts in painting, N.S.W. Travelling scholarship, N.E. Pethebridge Ceramic Award and the Mansfield Ceramics Art and Perception Magazine Award. In 2020, Sassy Park received second prize in the Meroogal Women’s Art Prize with Garden Play Set and was a finalist in the Tom Bass Prize for Figurative Sculpture (2020 and 2018) and the McClelland National Small Sculpture Prize (2020). Residencies include Hill End Artist Residency and the 2020 Onslow Storrier studio residency at La Cité Internationale des Arts, Paris, France, yet to be undertaken.
Ceramics is a medium especially suited to memorialising the intimacies of the everyday. Sassy Park's work plays with the accepted ideas of ceramics and art genres to express ideas of vulnerability and fragility. Her figures painted with slips and underglazes express an empathy that draws the viewer in, to look more closely and engage with the object. Using scale and humour, Park's figures reflect equally on questions of history and its representation as with the small moments of life.
Vipoo Srivilasa and Sai-Wao Foo
Parking Deity, 2020, porcelain, cobalt oxide, gold lustre and mixed media
Parking Deity (increase your luck in finding a parking spot near a popular restaurant and lower a chance of encounter a parking inspector)
2020, porcelain, cobalt oxide, gold lustre and mixed media, 47 x 21 x 14cm
This work, in ceramics and mixed media, is a cross-media collaboration based on the artists’ cultural and personal obsessions with food, and the role it plays in identity and sense of place. Parking Deity featured in the Ceramix exhibition at MAG&M (May-June 2021) and was purchased through funds provided by Northern Beaches Council.
The artists come from two societies famously known for their cuisine – Thai (Vipoo) and Malaysian-born-Chinese (Sai-Wai). Part of a larger body of work, their installation Have You Eaten? serves as a shrine to good meals and the love and care that can be expressed by being able to nourish your body and soul. The artists explain their lively creative process:
“As a pair of type-A personalities, we have a tendency to egg each other on. We’re possibly a little bit competitive and we both like working to a plan with the flexibility to run with an idea or theme if it is taking shape. The best thing about working collaboratively was being able to take on more ambitious ideas, pushing our practices beyond what we can achieve individually.”
A Thai-born Melbourne-based artist, curator and arts activist. Vipoo works predominantly in porcelain but also creates work on paper, mixed media sculptures, bronze statues and designs large scale public art. His work is a playful blend of European historical figurines and Asian decorative art practices with a healthy dose of contemporary culture, often exploring cross-cultural and migration experiences.
Collaboration is an important part of his art practice. He has been using clay to engage and include different communities into his creative process for the past 10 years. As a Thai-born Australian artist, a cross-cultural experience is in his blood and it is Vipoo's passion to share this experience with others. Cultural diversity helps him understand the conflicts and contradictions in race, religious and sexual discrimination from personal, regional and global points of view. It is the reason why he is actively involved in organised cultural exchange projects between artists internationally.
For more than 20 years, Vipoo has exhibited both internationally and throughout Australia. He was awarded a Bachelor of Art (Ceramics) from Rangsit University, Bangkok, Thailand in 1994 which he followed with a Graduate Diploma of Arts (Ceramics) three years later at Monash University in Melbourne, and in 1998 was awarded a Master of Fine Art and Design from the University of Tasmania, Hobart.
Vipoo Srivilasa is represented by Olsen Gallery, Scott Livesey Galleries and Edwina Corlette Gallery.
Christopher James (b.1964)
Bowl (Wild Place series), 2021, wheel thrown, satin matt glazes
Bowl by Christopher James is part of the artist’s Wild Places series which represents several years of processing the elements and essence behind places of meaning in his life. It combines clays and glazes of his own formulation, and conveys the energy and feel of the wild places that inspire him.
“When I think about the environments that provide me with the greatest senses of adventure, exploration, pleasure and calm, some common links appear. Two of the main features are wind and water and the way the two combine as fluid or solid to create the potential for adventure and exploration.”
Bowl joins two other earlier works by James, both from 1991, in the MAG&M collection - a large Saggar fired spherical piece and a smaller wood fired lidded container. This new work from 2021 celebrates thirty years of making and representation, and updates our holdings of the artist’s work.
Bowl has been kindly gifted by the MAG&M Society and was donated directly from the artist’s studio. James is currently head ceramics teacher at Northern Beaches TAFE and influential artist and educator, working as a professional potter since 1986.
“I am excited by the idea that we can accelerate the processes of nature with the ceramic process. I like to think of the firing process as a compression of time. We create crystals, rocks and glazes in hours rather than millions of years.”
Bowl (Wild Places series), 2021, wheel thrown, satin matt glazes, 26 x 26cm diam. Collection: Manly Art Gallery & Museum – Gift of MAG&M Society 2021