Opening at the Rosalie Gallery 12 April 2019
The exhibition is part of The Regions, the Regional Arts Development Fund project taking contemporary art experiences into regional areas. The project has been managed by the Alexandra Lawson Gallery.
What is permanence?
Dictionaries tell us that ‘“permanence” is a noun meaning the quality of lasting, and the state of remaining unchanged indefinitely’.
But permanence is more than that...it is the investment of the human spirit in perpetuity. Something that encapsulates experience and distils it in a way that can be shared, revered, thought about, and remembered so that it becomes a part of our own immediate experience, as well as investing in a continuing awareness.
Permanence implies the consolidation of layered memories...compressed and melded together to create something endurable that is impervious to the eroding vagaries of the day to day...something, in fact, that has survived.
It is human nature to seek stability and permanence, they are core values that form a basis of our social structure... yet we live in a throw-away society of built in obsolescence. Everything physical that shapes our lives has an expiry date, even ourselves. There are no absolutes. Faith defies logic and belief is challenged by reality. But still we hope. We aspire to leave some permanent reminder, something that remains to mark our presence and to tell our stories to future generations. These reminders also act as memorials to honour sacrifice and survival. Significantly, they help us remember events such as wars in which countless lives were lost and humanity was diminished, to remind us to be forever vigilant so that these horrors are not repeated.
So how is the concept of “permanence” translated into an artwork that could, in all probability, last forever as a distinctive relic or artifact that reflects a dimension of our creative culture?
Dan Elborne is a ceramic artist for whom the immersion in process-based practice drives, shapes, and defines his art-making. Process is a discipline that forms the architecture of his practice and allows him to translate profound issues and philosophical imperatives, and to assimilate history into symbolic objects.
Dan Elborne works largely in multiples where the sheer volume of the work and the physical commitment are an active extension of the memorialization of the object. In creating his series of artworks which include Five Hundred, One Drop of Blood, Where They Burn Books, Remains, Ceremony, 48 Hours 24 Minutes 16 Seconds, a durational body of work prepared for the forth coming exhibition “A Fierce Hope,” and the hauntingly impressive Deathgate Elborne has conducted literally hundreds of kiln firings.
The kiln regime for “Deathgate” was particularly intense with many firings that were time consuming and laborious. After each firing the kiln was cleared and swept and any fragments, shards and ‘wasters”, the broken or damaged bits of fired clay, as well as the clay dust itself were kept. These joined Elborne’s growing collection of firing ‘by products’ that include local Kleinton clay, examples from New South Wales, Victoria, and the ACT as well as those remnants brought home from his residencies and exhibitions in Japan, Spain, France, Denmark, Iceland, Finland and the United States. The high temperature firings mean that the ceramic fragments and residue are hard, durable, and basically impossible to break down, giving them, in fact, a state of permanence
The creation of the works that comprise “Permanence” presented an opportunity for a thoughtful respite after the exhausting production of “Deathgate,” and, interestingly, they acknowledge by extension, some of the properties that dominated the “Deathgate” project. “Deathgate” is a monumental installation that is a memorial to the millions of souls sacrificed in the Nazi death camps such as Auschwitz as well as a memorial honouring those who survived. In processing the symbolic “Deathgate” stones Elborne’s firings became a form of cremation leaving vestiges of memory in the detritus of the kiln.
For “Permanence” the dust and clay remnants have been re-purposed to form heavy, compact column-like sculptures. Sentinels that pay homage to memory. The rubble aggregate and clay refuse have created objects that carry the traces of Elborne’s previous works. They are minimalist structures, solid, spare, and elegant. The physical material of the clay itself becomes the vessel of containment that carries acknowledgement and respect for the stories, the emotions, the research, the time and the labour, and the profound empathy that are integral to Elborne’s practice. By the very nature of their substance these cultural artefacts give physical form to the concept of permanence as an amalgam of history, experience, memory, and recollection that has the resilience and strength to create a symbol of continuity.
©Sandy Pottinger, March 2019