13 – 30 August 2020
about the exhibition
Expressing the connected nature of all life and matter is at the core of Jenny Orchard’s art practice. A highly regarded ceramic artist for over thirty years, Jenny continues to be fascinated by the versatility and potential of this medium to drive her ideas forward. Although known mainly for her ceramics, Jenny has also been an avid drawer since childhood. It is only in recent years that she has presented her drawings, watercolours and collages alongside her ceramics, offering us a glimpse into her extraordinary imagination and drawing the viewer further into her world of surreal juxtapositions that both surprise and intrigue. As she explains of her process, “Chance combinations serve as triggers for arrangements or compositions which give expression to the imagination and begin to form their own meanings and stories.” Jenny describes her ceramic hybrids as “mash-ups” – part creature, part plant, part insect, part reptile. These complex forms have been hand built using earthenware clay and decorated in an array of vibrantly coloured glazes, often going through multiple firings in the kiln. There are often references to the places in which she has lived as well as her fascination with European tradition, African and Aboriginal mythologies, Australian contemporary culture and the environment. As writer, curator and broadcaster Julie Ewington noted in 2019, “All this antic energy, the brilliant colours and glazes of the creatures, with their dazzling wacky textures and frou-frou tarting up, distracts attention from Orchard’s technical brilliance. Paradoxically, since it is hidden in plain sight, this skill is invisible, and rightly so, since virtuosity is merely the servant of her imagination”. Each work in this exhibition forms its own story but the narrative running through all of them is that of accelerated change, chance encounters and the suggestion of parallel realities. Jenny’s art practice reconnects us with a child-like wonder of life on the planet and, conversely, invites us to contemplate the darker notions of our meddling with it.
Born in Turkey, Jenny grew up in Zimbabwe and emigrated to Australia in 1976. She studied at the College of Fine Arts in Sydney, receiving her Bachelor of Arts in 1980, and has exhibited widely in Australia and overseas. She has won major prizes such as the prestigious Sidney Myer Fund Australian Ceramic Award in 2017 and, earlier this year, the Wollongong Art Gallery held a major exhibition of her work over the last decade. Her work has been extensively acquired and is represented, amongst others, in the collections of the National Gallery of Australia, Powerhouse Museum, Sydney, Queensland Art Gallery, Art Gallery of South Australia and National Gallery of Victoria.