Kirsten Coelho’s ceramic vessels are almost hyper-real in their stillness and serenity. Perfectly poised, arranged in an approximation of casual or contingent association, these beakers, dishes and bottles seem almost otherworldly: they summon spirits, of a sort. But from whence? Given their pristine collectedness and their ethereal beauty, it’s easy to forget that the origins of Coelho’s forms are humble: the kitchen, the laundry, sometimes the garage, and only rarely the drawing room. The last is the give-away: when Coelho makes space for familiars from the past, she is usually looking over her shoulder at working people and their usual utensils, at the daily routines that filled and emptied thousands of similar vessels.

So there is a spareness in Coelho’s new work, one that sits squarely with the rigours of rural existence: the ample proportions of the largest bowls recall enamel basins on washing day or the arduous business of plain cooking for hungry mouths; bottles and beakers allude to the few carefully husbanded implements in bush kitchens, long before the coming of Australian material prosperity.


The artist gratefully acknowledges that this project has been assisted by Arts South Australia