This month’s group exhibition at the Dorrigo Rainforest Centre- ‘One Fine Day’, features the intriguing works of Sally Hook. “I have worked with clay for 40 years. Clay is potential,” says Sally. She affectionately refers to the unique pieces in this show as Austral Avians, human figures with the heads of birds native to our region.
“The subject of humans with bird heads could be construed as our love of birds, our identification with a particular bird species or a deeper sense of our connection with the natural world. We ARE a part of Nature, not removed from it, as in viewing the passing landscape within the air-conditioned cocoon of a car or attempting to change things where Nature has made perfection,” says Sally.
Sally has always been drawn to working with the human figure, enjoying realism to comedy to abstraction…depending on what she is hoping to achieve. “I’ve chosen the human figure because it is so easy to describe emotion, attitude and ways of being. When I was a kid at primary school, I remember getting my best friend to pull faces so I could draw them. After fifty years nothing has changed!”
Her work is both eclectic and beguiling. I was interested to meet the artist behind the works…..
Sally what drew you to a life in the arts?
I was drawing at an early age. My mother was an artist, my sister and brother as well, so it is in the family genes. All through my school years, the strengths I had were for my athletic and artistic efforts so it was a done deal. I went to art college then on to advertising in Melbourne for a few years, then we moved north.
How has your relationship with clay developed?
In 1980 I joined a pottery class in the old Tewinga school (between Nambucca and Bowraville) and was instantly attracted to clay working. Bev Butler was the teacher, now retired from ceramics, but she was a thorough practitioner and I learned a lot from her. Then I worked with May Southgate, a practicing potter at her studio in Hungry Head. The rest of that decade was in learning as much as I could, building a workshop, learning how to ‘drive’ a kiln, exploring throwing, hand building and glazing techniques and finding outlets like the Yellow Shed and other art/craft galleries in the region.
The next decade was spent building ‘Ozmosis Plaster Moulds’ with my partner Dirka. The company was involved in designing, manufacturing and distributing plaster moulds with Australian themes. We were the only company doing this as all moulds for the ceramics industry came from the U.S. Their moulds (pertaining to Australia) were a little under-researched – their koalas had tails. We built our range to two hundred and fifty designs and our customers with ceramic studios were from all across Australia. The most distant customer was from Broome.
Since the turn of the century I’ve continued to expand my knowledge in ceramics through study and practice. Studying the history of ceramics has allowed me to see ceramics more as a time honored art form with sophisticated evolution over thousands of years of human artistry and technology. I’ve learnt from ceramic artists who were/are highly regarded both from Australia and internationally, acquiring a slew of new techniques and broadening my hopes for future opportunities.
What is it about clay that keeps you engaged?
Clay is ‘potential’. It can take any shape I imagine, so provides a direct relationship between my imagination and my hands. I am on a road of discovery of my ideas and after so many years the fascination hasn’t waned.
Who or what has primarily influenced your work?
All art has influenced me. It is difficult to pinpoint but lets say Egyptian art, classical art and outsider art (anything goes) speak to me. So its a combination of beauty and strangeness, a teetering on the edge of balance and imbalance. There is a vein of the unknown and the untried which I hope to mine, getting into trouble sometimes.
Why the bird heads on human bodies?
I like to play with incongruence sometimes. As with some of my work, I make objects that arrive without contemplation or messaging. That is, until when made, meanings become evident. This is the result of my process of imagining new things. I trust the ‘downloading’ of ideas from the ether as it is a constant source of unexplained images that is abundant and without guile.
How do the Austral Avians fit with your interpretation of ‘One Fine Day’?
One Fine Day is a combination of artworks from each artist, pertaining to our beautiful region. I live where birds are. Every day I see an abundance of species that amaze and delight me.
I felt that the Austral Avians worked within the theme of Nature, of the enjoyment of being in Nature and the beings which inhabit the forests within it. One Fine Day is a theme that can embrace our love of the outdoors, which includes our magnificent bird populations of the Mid North Coast.
‘One Fine Day’ exhibition running until December 14th Dorrigo Rainforest Centre.
For more information about Sally Hook Ceramics CLICK HERE