Artist's statement

Peter Wilson

My major interest in ceramics lies in the effects of the fire, effects that are uniquely ceramic and which cannot be reproduced by the brush of any other method. Peter Wilson Artist Statement ImageI am not a decorator. I am searching for particular qualities of glaze and form that have individuality in this time of mass production and globalised everything.

Working with clay is about a relationship with one of the commonest of the earth's materials. The technical facility and understandings about these materials evolve slowly as does discovering the precise direction of your expression. Continuous technical experimentation has underpinned my curiosity to explore several areas of ceramics to achieve specific purposes.

I value a good sense of design and craftsmanship of the handmade objects in the use of the everyday ceramic items with which we define ourselves and our existence. I appreciate and respect the craft base of working with clay and hence I have chosen the vessel as my main means of expression. My pots are concerned with the relationship between surface and form, the essential elements of the potter. The surfaces are tactile and inherently decorative, formed in the firing process where ceramic materials are transformed to glaze in the fire. My forms are simple and uncomplicated, designed to complement the glazed surfaces such that neither dominates the other in an attempt to create some sort of balance between the two elements.

My parents taught me to observe and to appreciate nature as a young child and early studies in geology and palaeontology sparked a curiosity of the natural world. Metaphorical relationships between my work and aspects of the environment logically progressed. The Halleys' Comet Series (1986), Earthworks (1994), Hill End Series (1996), Visual Landscape Imagery (1997), Mosses and Lichens (2000-8) all followed.

Enduring Passion. The Ceramics of Peter Wilson

There is something about Peter Wilson's ceramic surfaces which evoke the ancient and the elemental. The faintest thud of a droplet of rain as it lands in the soft dust of drought; the radiant symmetry of a petrified tree fern in cross section; air-born seeds and pollens which have traveled the earth for millennia, all these perennial sonatas of nature resonate in his stunningly beautiful glazes.

Peter's latest collection of work, entitled Mosses and Lichens, shown recently at Mura Clay Gallery in Sydney, testifies to an ongoing passionate association between the artist, the chemistry of the crystal and the elements of earth, fire, water and air. The perfectly balanced relationship between the form of the clay body, the thickness and distribution of the crystals, the atmosphere of the kiln and the primary element, fire, are what consumes this most patient and diligent of craftsmen.

He likens his interaction with crystalline glazes to that of a child spreading glitter but his is not an innocent eye, rather, a deeply sensitive awareness of possibility wedded to an impish creativity. It is not possible, even given the most fortuitous of serendipity, to achieve the kinds of results that he does without years of dedicated practice and obsessive recording. At the same time that he is playing with his "palette of crystals" he is guided by his desire to achieve that delicate balance between form and surface, and at the same time, to understand the nature of its delicacy. His involvement has always been one of striving for "something extra in the work, some intuitive effect that is uniquely the fire".1. In the time that I have observed his practice there has always been evidence of this illusive something. With each new edition, I have enjoyed the technical and aesthetic developments that have taken place in his work especially his unique matt finishes which are, if there is such a thing, chemical poetry.

The unity of surface and form has been developed further in this latest body of work. More conventional bowl shapes have been joined by slender vases and shallower bowls poised on fine feet. Lidded vessels are variously rounded or elongated in a range of botanically inspired possibilities. The taller vases and the extended sphere shapes have a Brancusian elegance and simplicity, while in some of the smaller lidded vessels the vernacular is playfully evoked in forms oddly reminiscent of seed pods and gum nuts. These vessels have a lightness of touch which continues to surprise. Each jar, vase and bowl is poised daintily, gently in a negotiated gravity. Each piece is also an entity, a complete visual statement, which engages its own audience in a sensuous and tactile dialogue. These are forms which ask to be touched and held; surfaces which need to be stroked.

Unlike some of his earlier pieces, the glazes are now confined to the outside of the vessels, preserving the integrity of the white interiors, working with the form to highlight and strengthen the texture, subtlety and mesmeric quality of the external surfaces.

Although Peter makes clear his belief that the effects he achieves are not painting, nevertheless, they engage the viewer in the same meditative response as does the very best of lyrical abstraction.

To me the evocation of the Bathurst goldfields landscape is immediate and intimate in these delicious surfaces. The soft green crystals cling like lichens to a mottled, warm, gray, brown stone form, worn by the wind to a smooth touch. Elsewhere, the dawning of white on white that is never white alone gives way to a web-like tracing of burgundy hovering about the top of the vessel like a fleeting horizon. The bleached yellow grasses that spring from the crackling orange soil spread upward from the base of a bowl. In other pieces we witness the random spread of droplets joining together in excited surrender as the drought breaks. So powerful are these evocations that one can taste the dust and smell the rain. This is the parched psyche of the Australian bush; the invaded surfaces of trees; the dry residue of leaves spotted with age; a childhood spent watching for the rain through a flyscreen door, rejoicing at its first hesitant approach.

While the technical challenge of taming the crystal is an enduring passion in Peter Wilson's work, there is also an endearing respect for the wild and beautiful and never entirely predictable nature of this quixotic material. But, perhaps more significantly, alongside the dynamics of chemistry and the intimacy of the fire, these works celebrate life through their awareness and engagement with the infinite variations of nature, the narratives of growth and the rewards of meditation. In the artist's own words:

"The claim of any work of art to beauty and artistic integrity centers on its ability to convey meaningful visual messages. There must be a depth and breadth to the work which transcends the superficiality of the technical aspects of its creation."2.

1. Peter Wilson. Artist's Statement. Mosses and Lichens. Mura Clay Gallery. Sydney 2005

2. Ibid.

Marilyn Walters. Sydney. 2005


Dr. Marilyn Walters is an artist, writer and lecturer in Contemporary Art at the University of Western Sydney.