Ceramic forms (8), 'Moments in Black and White' series, plaster / porcelain / ink, made by Maiju Altpere-Woodhead, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, 2006
Canberra ceramicist Maiju Altpere-Woodhead made this series of eight porcelain cylinders as part of her 'Moments in Black and White series', exploring the relationship between place and memory and the way in which the unknown becomes familiar through associations of the present with the past. Much of Altpere-Woodhead's work deals with personal emotional responses to various environments, reflecting the dramatic impact that the Australian landscape has had on her as an Estonian migrant.
She says that she is driven by a "search for permanence. I think that's why I took to ceramics with such enthusiasm. I suppose we all relate to environment through looking for something in reality. What was really startling to me was the extremes of the Australian natural environment. If it's dry, it's really dry; if it rains it floods. In Estonia everything is in moderation, even though we can get very cold spells and quite warm summers. But it just seems the forces of nature here are so grand. It was quite a humbling experience for me".*
The eight cylindrical forms share the combination of a painterly imagery superimposed with textured and defined graphic markings resulting from a mono-printing technique. This overlaying of a printing process on porcelain allows Altpere-Woodhead to reflect on the blurred boundary between past and present as well as express the constant change and unpredictability of memories. While the diameter of the cylinders remains more or less constant, the varying heights and rim forms add a movement and visual rhythm to the works when viewed together. Altpere-Woodhead is "intrigued by the ways recollections of other places influence and inform one's relationship with present surrounds. As new impressions are embedded into the existing web of sentiment and experience, the boundaries between past and present, old and new become blurred".*
To some, the black strokes on the delicate porcelain may resemble a particular landscape or environment such as the branches of pine or birch tree. Altpere-Woodhead says her work is metaphorical and not intended as a literal reference to any landscape, but rather strives to reflect the contradictory nature of memory as both ephemeral and timeless.
* interview with Maiju Altpere-Woodhead, 27 October 2006
Anni Turnbull, curator, 2011
The ceramic forms were made by Maiju Altpere-Woodhead in Canberra, Australian Capital Territory, Australia, 2006.
The forms were created by Maiju Altpere-Woodhead use the method of ceramic mono printing on plaster slabs, in which layers of coloured and white porcelain are brushed or sponged onto the incised slabs and then a layer of porcelain is cast to form a thin ceramic backing sheet. Incised plaster slabs are used as single-sided moulds and liquid porcelain is brushed on which, when dried, form thin ceramic sheets with relief decoration. The plaster has a sensitive and responsive surface that records and reveals every alteration, but the markings also lose definition rapidly and even disappear with subsequent prints due to the soft plaster wearing away during use; Altpere-Woodhead alters and adds markings to the existing and fading ones, enabling a record of change as images appear, metamorphose and gradually disappear while all along retaining traces of their former identity. The process of change continues with the application of different coloured slips which are scraped away (in the manner of classical monotype) in spontaneous patterns as they dry. The final product's combination of the raised relief of the lines and the smooth satiny surface provides a contrast of texture as well as appearance, eliciting both tactile and visual responses from the viewer. A local Australian clay, Imperial Porcelain, is used both for its purity of colour and translucent qualities.
The ceramic forms were displayed in the Powerhouse Museums, Australian Community Gallery in an exhibition called 'Our new home Meie Uus Kodu: Estonian- Australian stories' (2006-2008). An online version of this exhibtion exists at: http://www.migrationheritage.nsw.gov.au/exhibitions/ournewhome/
Altpere-Woodhead had been working in the Estonian capital, Tallinn, as an animator and children's book illustrator when she met her Australian husband in Berlin; he took the unusual step of learning Estonian and living in Soviet-ruled Estonia with Maiju and her two children until 1992. The family then migrated to Australia, where Maiju received a Bachelor of Arts (1st Class Honours) in Visual Arts from the Australian National University in 1998, and subsequently a Master of Philosophy in Visual Arts from the same institution in 2003. She has exhibited throughout Australia, as well as overseas in Singapore, the Czech Republic, and Norway.