Header photograph: Jenni Collier
Garden of Alchemy - a story of survival against the odds
Detail from Alchemy. Photograph: Dawn Beasley
Exhibition title with Bankable in the background. Photograph: Jaydene Chapman
It is impossible to be influenced by the botanical world without reflecting on the harm inflicted on the ecosystem by humankind’s arrogance and greed: the lost species, the meddling of introduced species where they do not belong, shrinking rainforests, genetic crop modification and lost biodiversity. The picture seems so very bleak. . . but look. . . there! Amid the concrete there peeks a green shoot, pushing skyward, from a crack in the pavement. Striving upwards to feast on the sun, whilst below determined roots sneak through crevices seeking nourishment, widening cracks and breaking down incongruous man-made forms. Life is tenacious, determined and unstoppable. Survival against the odds.
Detail from Alchemy. Photograph: Jenni Collier
The main installation, “Alchemy,” features a field of lotus-inspired stems emerging from a desert-like landscape. The head and stems were slip-cast separately and then joined to provide individual variations utilising three different stem moulds and four heads. The natural tendency of porcelain to slump slightly in the second firing led to a delightful array of elegant silhouettes. The relationship between the different pieces was a key consideration as the installation was composed; Dawn wanted to create ‘conversations’ between the different pieces, hinting at the ghost of human interaction in an uninhabited world born from the ashes of human destruction.
Detail from Alchemy. Photograph: Jaydene Chapman
Fiona Pow (2021) Alchemy
Hear her rasp as aching fissures
tear and split
Scalded and spliced year on year
fever and fit
when weariness takes hold and she succumbs.
See her verdant plains dimmed to stubble
black and burnish
Scorched bark sending desperate fingers skywards
brittle and crisp
searching for dew breath and succour.
The earth, she trembles, stiffens and softly pulses.
Dull rumbles as her belly promises life
rush and flow
Rain pummels parched ground
eases and enthrals
she opens arms upwards, outwards, rising.
Green flutes needle through ash blankets
spry and interested
Feeling tendrils up into ether
firm and ferment
As day becomes night becomes day.
New light splashes morning with hope.
Artist Dawn Beasley and Bloom (2021)
Dawn Beasley (2020-21) Alchemy, porcelain, metal leaf, perlite, vinyl lettering. installed size: h200 x w400 x d360cm
Photograph: Jaydene Chapman
The spot lit landscape is backdropped with a poem written specifically for the installation by poet Fiona Pow: the bringing together of two artforms within a single work.
Dawn Beasley Bloom (2021) porcelain, gold lustre. 160cm diameter installed photograph: Jaydene Chapman
Detail from Bloom (2021) photograph: Jaydene Chapman
The properties of porcelain make it ideal for small detailed and fragile sculptural forms. By combining multiple elements into larger installations, Dawn creates impact through scale whilst celebrating detail.
Bloom (2021) featured over 150 delicate hand-built flowers in a wall-hung circular installation. The fragility of the individual blossoms isolated against a barren wall in a circular formation hints at the cycle of life.
Within the installation, each flower is unique; some are recognisable, and others represent species lost and those yet to exist. Small golden details glimmer from each one. We value flowers for their beauty and perfume and yet their true value lies in the part they play in furthering life. They live for such a short time and exist only to ensure the continuation of their species; if the flower does not fade, the seed cannot mature.
Dawn Beasley Regeneration (2021) porcelain, black mid-fire, metal leaf. 442cm x 81cm installed Photograph: Jaydene Chapman
In Regeneration (2021) the blending of two differently coloured clay bodies with the addition of coloured pigments to create gradient colour-play across the work, coupled with the long rectangular layout of this installation immediately communicates the concept of change over time. Inspired by the sterile nest fronds of the Aglaomorpha genus of ferns, a leaf whose purpose is to collect organic debris to compost to feed the more glamourous fertile foliage fronds, this work narrates the destruction of species, our misguided value system and the potential for regeneration if we put nature back in control.
Dawn Beasley Regeneration (2021) Photograph: Jaydene Chapman
The mass-production technique of slip-casting was utilised to create multiple Banksia inspired forms for Bankable (2020-21). .
The curved form rebounds light around the golden interiors making them glow enticingly questioning the value placed on natural resources as a commodity for monetary gain.
Detail from Bankable (2020-21)
photograph: Jaydene Chapman