Sandra Taylor


Sandra Taylor

Zen & the Art of Livestock Leaping 27cm high ceramic

From Powerhouse Museum, Sydney

Sandra Taylor (b. 1942) trained at East Sydney Technical College in 1965-66, and in the early 1970s moved away from making functional wares in the Anglo-Oriental style, towards making painted and modelled narratives of Australian life. These have usually been humorously and critically observant of some aspect of Australian ‘norms’, and over the years she has made these observations through metaphors as diverse as pigs, savaloys, palm trees, dogs, cattle, houses, swimming pools and pencil pines.

The Museum has some modelled works from 1979. This plate is the culmination of a 1992 series ‘Yarns from the Bush’, made after Taylor had moved to Buccarumbi in northern NSW. Most of the series was exhibited at the Macquarie Galleries but this one was made later, and she considers it a most significant example of that group. Later work (included in the file) extends this painted work onto three dimensional objects like houses, in the ‘Romantic Dividends’ series of 1996.

Sandra Taylor, along with Lorraine Jenyns and Mark Thompson, was among the first of the 1970s potters to successfully shift from a prevailing functional aesthetic, and has consistently pursued particular themes. She has been influential on a large number of ceramic artists since that time. This is an excellent example of her painted work of the 1990s.

She identifies the motifs in this plate as ‘symbolic bush language’ that she has intuitively evolved over some time. eg: The dog turns into a cow, a person sometimes becomes a cow (see the figure with double heads), sometimes a creature becomes a tree or a branch. The eye symbol is a watcher (in early days this was a galah, then a dog, and is now an eye).

See ‘Yarns from the Bush’ article from Craft Arts 1992; article by Helen Stephens in Ceramics: Art and Perception (1996).

Sandra Taylor: Icons – Kenosis and Antikenosis

The characters that populate Taylor’s recent work undergo a kenosis of
individuality, of superficial attributes, almost akin to a passage from mannerist
portraiture to the austerity and abstraction of medieval religious iconography.
A stripping away, an emptying out of the manifestations of individual
personality towards the symbolic essence of being. But there is nothing
extreme about the kenosis of Taylor’s icons. They are not empty ciphers.
They live; their communication is intense and vitally alive.

Unlike the medieval icon’s stern, authoritarian and formulaic motifs, Taylor’s
icons display a soft polymorphic fluidity, and take us (as all good painting
should) into a non-literal and non-literate world and into a space deeper than
words. We see before we speak or write.

As Taylor’s icons, her pantheon of symbolic forms, have been pared to their
essentials, they have become more fluid. Birds morph into serpents and
cuttlefish, serpents become dogs, fish have almond eyes. Symbol resides
within symbol; a woman wears a red devil like a body hugging evening
dress, and a golden-haloed saint sits in Leunig-like beatifice within a horned
devil. Externally, a man is facing a woman, whilst in his heart he looks in the
opposite direction; another man lives within a dog (dingo, wolf?) from which
he glares at the viewer.

Refined, abstracted, simplified too is Taylor’s working palette. Gone are the
works in polychrome, the bright primary and secondary colours of her earlier
work. Taylor’s colours are now the blacks, reds, ochres and whites of the
great australian soul-land, the colours of the western desert, the colours of
the first peoples to be in its centre.

Yet, as the forms and palette have been reduced, the materiality and surface
textures of the work have become increasingly rich and complex. In Taylor’s
most recent “A4” series, the surfaces become almost impasto-like, no small
feat for works created with oil stick on paper. Gone are the strictly two
dimensional graphic qualities, visible especially in her earthenware ceramics,
replaced by richly worked and reworked surfaces with layer upon layer of
pigment. From narrative into being.

Kenosis and antikenosis. On a journey toward the centre.

Dr Richard Tarrant, November 2012.

Dr Tarrant is a retired academic and sculptor who has lectured in visual art departments at
the Universities of Sydney, Newcastle and Western Sydney.


Sculpture 22


Born in Sydney, Australia
Graduated from East Sydney Technical College
1968 – 1977
Taught ceramics – High Schools, Technical Colleges, Sydney Teachers’ College, Sydney College of the Arts
Established own studio in Balmain
Grant received from Crafts Board
Awarded Gold Medal of the Faenza Credito Romagnolo
Moved to Northern New South Wales
Sandra’s property became a centre for creative exploration “Blackadder Creative Retreat”
Visual Arts Craft Fund Fellowship
Final workshop. Property sold

Solo Exhibitions

Chapman Gallery, Canberra
Macquarie Galleries, Sydney
Moree Plains Regional Gallery
1987 & 1979
Realities Melbourne
1986 & 1981
Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
Art of Man Gallery, Sydney


Bligh Park Shopping Centre mural, Windsor
Harbourside Festival Marketplace, Darling Harbour Sydney, mural

Selected Group Exhibitions

“Sculpture 22” Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
“Small is the new Big” Robin Gibson Gallery, Sydney
“Australische Keramic” Gallery Handwerk, Munich Germany
“Sidney Myer Fund International Ceramics Award” Shepparton Gallery Victoria
“The Fletcher Challenge Ceramics Award” Auckland NZ
“Ceramics” Ray Hughes Gallery, Sydney
“Kutani International Decorative Ceramic Exhibition” Japan
“Sculptural Objects, Functional Art” (SOFA) Chicago, USA
“Out of the Void” Queensland Art Gallery
“Designex” Darling Harbour Exhibition Centre, Sydney
“Delinquent Angel” Faenza Italy (then touring Australia)
“Pots and Platters” recent Australian ceramics from the Powerhouse Museum and other collections, Penrith Regional Gallery
“Craft Australia” for collectors’ circle of the American Craft Museum
“Fresh Clay” Australian Craft Centre, Melbourne
“Messa Berlin” Tradefair Exhibition, Germany
“From Func to Functional” McWhirter’s Art Space Brisbane
“12th National Gold Coast Ceramic Award”
“Decorated Clay” Queensland Art Gallery (touring)
“Australian Landscapes” Gold Coast City Art Gallery
“Expo 92” Australian Pavilion Seville Spain
“11th National Gold Coast Ceramic Art Award”
“Indoor Landscapes” Craft Council of Queensland
“Australian Crafts in Chicago” (C I N A F E ’91)
“Australia Pacific World Craft s Exhibition” Kyoto Japan
“David Jones” Australia Day Crafts Exhibition, Sydney
“Craft Expo ’91” Exhibition Centre, Darling Harbour, Sydney
“Decorated Vessel” 6th National ceramic conference, McWhirter’s Art Space, Brisbane
“The Vessel” Gold Coast City Art Gallery
“Three Artists from Australia”; part of Australia’s contribution to the New Zealand 1990 Commonwealth Games
“20×20 Crafts in Society (1970-1990)” Crafts Council NSW touring exhibition
“Clat Statements“2nd National Darling Downs Survey
“Aspects of Australian Crafts” Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
“Australian Decorative Arts – the past 10 years” National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
“Contemporary Australian Ceramics” National Gallery of Victoria touring NZ & USA
“Contemporary Australian Ceramics” Ivan Dougherty Gallery, Sydney
“European Dialogue” 3rd Biennale of Sydney
“Australian Craft- A Survey of Recent Work” touring major Australian Sate Galleries
“35th Concorso Internationale d’Arte Ceramica” Faenza, Italy
“Australian Ceramics” Sydney Opera House opening festival exhibition, CLM Gallery, Sydney

Public Collections

Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Grafton Regional Gallery
Tweed Heads Regional Art Gallery
Queensland Art Gallery
Shepparton Art Gallery
Bathurst Regional Art Gallery
Campbelltown City Council Regional Gallery
Gold Coast City Art Gallery
Queensland University of Technology
National Gallery of Victoria
Queensland Art Gallery
Gold Coast City Art Gallery
New England Regional Art Museum
City Art Institute, Sydney
Ipswich City Council Regional Art Gallery
Brisbane City Council
Orange Regional Art Gallery
Gold Coast City Art Gallery
National Gallery of Victoria
Bathurst Regional Art Gallery
Darling Downs Institute, Toowoomba
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Orange Regional Art Gallery
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
National Gallery of Australia, Canberra
Powerhouse Museum, Sydney
Queensland Art Gallery
National Gallery of Victoria
Arts Victoria Festival Collection
Art Bank, Sydney
The Phillip Morris Collection, Sydney
Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth
Rockhampton City Art Gallery
Geelong City Art Gallery
National Gallery of Australia, Canberr1977:Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide
Crafts Board of Australia
Melbourne University Art Gallery
Melbourne State College
Wollongong City Art Gallery
International Museum of Ceramics, Faenza, Italy

Private Collections

  • Baker McKenzie Collection, Sydney
  • Jack Benrova collectors’ circle of American Craft Museum
  • David J Evans President MGM/United Artists, USA
  • Sir Elton John, UK
  • Tim Storrier, Sydney
  • Geoffrey Proud, Sydney
  • Brett & Wendy Whiteley, Sydney
  • Sir Michael Parkinson, UK
  • Mark & Eva Besen, Melbourne
  • Lord McAlpine, UK
  • James Erskine, Sydney
  • Margaret Tuckson, Sydney

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