Weathering – Catherine Reid

8 October – 6 November 2010


“To undergo change, discolour, disintegrate, as the result of exposure to the air or atmosphere”.[1] 

This is a title appropriate for an exhibition of works inspired by the Australian landscape. In Weathering Catherine Reid invites us to witness her exploration of this landscape, one she describes as “both persistent and fragile, subject to the ravages of fire and drought, destruction and renewal, yet consistently suffused with subtle beauty”.

A studio located at the base of Mount Ainslie reserve in Canberra, provides immediate access to the landscape and an abundant source of inspiration for Catherine Reid. Reid is a long-standing observer of her rural environment, paying close attention to its subtle beauty, and drawing on the endless variations of form, delicate colours and patterns. The landscape can appear monochromatic and undifferentiated to the casual onlooker. However, Reid has applied a magnifying glass to her subject, drawing out the subtle qualities through repetition of pattern, form and texture. It is this environment that continues to inspire her work, and the exhibition Weathering.

Reid’s passion and long involvement with clay began at an early age and developed as she discovered other artists and techniques through journeying overseas. Reid spent six years in New York, working at ‘Supermud’ pottery, while juggling the complexities of a family and practice. The family then moved to the United Kingdom and spent two years in Cambrigde. It was here Reid discovered the work of Lucie Rie and Hans Coper at the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the unglazed pottery in archaeological collections in London and Cambridge, an experience she describes as profound. In Cambridge Reid undertook a workshop in smoke firing techniques with Jane Perryman. This experience inspired Reid to pursue this technique and has had a lasting influence on her practice. Reid eventually settled in Canberra establishing her studio in the landscape she loves.

Reid favours materials and techniques to create a visual language of her experiences of the landscape. Using smoke and black firing techniques, Reid harnesses these unpredictable processes to evoke her memories of the pattering and traces of insects left behind as they have journeyed across the surface of trees and vegetation, and the wind and rain pocked cliff faces and rocks smoothly burnished by the flow of water.

The wall pieces, simply titled Wall Piece 1, 2, 3 and 4, are a series of repeated slip cast porcelain cylinders. Each piece is wrapped in string, which has been dipped in oxide, burnished and submitted to the whim of the firing. Reid chooses to keep the forms unglazed and uses a variety of wood, shavings and shredded paper in the firing process to provide the colour and textural variations. The cylinders are assembled into sculptural installations.

The repetitive process of making is laborious, but one that Reid also describes as meditative, with the repetition providing a rhythm and harmony to the exhibition, enabling an emotive and nostalgic experience that conjures ones own memories and experience of the Australian bush.

The larger of the wall works, titled Penumbra 1, 2 and 3, encapsulate Reid’s success of utilising technique to construct her interpretation of the landscape. The movement of smoke whispers across the surface of the cylinders, and illuminates the opaque shadowing of subtle colours in pink, blue and grey, wrapped in bands around the forms. 

The organic black pod and basket vessels contrast with the uniform cylinders, and move the viewer from imagining tree scapes to contemplating the mountains, boulders, rocks and pebbles.  

The vessels surfaces have been impressed or cut away to create complex patterns of line and shadow, suggestive of the surfaces of cliff faces, rock platforms and boulders smoothed by tides. Reid intensifies minute details, using repetition to create cohesion between form and surface treatment. The small impressions are further illuminated with sections of iridescent flashes of colour within the vast blackness.

Reid has recreated her landscape in a stylised format. The works invite us to contemplate how we visualise our natural environment. By selecting and magnifying an element, through repetition Reid has transformed a forest of trees into linear compositions, and a mountain into a collective of pattern.  

Diana Hare

Curator and Exhibition Manager, Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre

[1] The Macquarie Dictionary Online © Macquarie Dictionary Publishers Pty Ltd.
Photo: Derek Ross.