PRESERVED

An Installation by Tom Strachan

Preserved is an installation of wall mounted porcelain works that present (and preserve) Australian eucalypt trees, and is presented in the beautiful heritage Ancher House Gallery.

Art Exhibition previously on at Penrith Regional Gallery & the Lewers Bequest in New South Wales, Australia.
From Saturday 06 February 2010 to Sunday 04 April 2010

Preserved image

Published by anonymous on Wednesday 10 March 2010.
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Tom Strachan – Artist Statement
Preserved is part of an ongoing preoccupation – in my functional work and Fine Arts practice – with the ceramic representation (and preservation) of Australian eucalypt tress. What draws me to this is not only elegant form and structure, but metaphorical and symbolic significance and context.

Recently I have been experimenting with the process of dipping botanical specimens into a paper clay slip. I love the elegant forms of eucalypt trees and wanted to develop a process of preserving the plant material in order to show the beauty and delicacy and extraordinary shapes of this flora. The nature of this process articulates the gracefulness of the plant itself. The multiple layers of clay, rather than simply reproducing the shape, simplify the detail and define the nature of the specimen. The process allows the design elements of the plant itself to be seen.

To begin this process I gather specimens of flowering eucalypt. I am quite particular about the scale of the pieces; as for the process to succeed the specimens need to be relatively compact. The pieces I collect are then cleaned and while still green, are dipped into a clay slip and then laid flat on a plastic-coated board. This process is repeated twice. The dipping process uses a clay body called Southern Ice Porcelain, which was developed by Les Blakeborough. In addition I add Long Cellulose Fibre paper to the clay mix for better adhesion and to minimise shrinkage.

The pieces are then dipped four more times over a period of a week and hung to dry. The process is delicate and time-consuming as the pieces are extremely fragile. They are then bisque fired, glazed and fired again to Cone 6 (1220 degrees Celsius) in a gas kiln. During the firing process the plant material carbonises inside the clay leaving the finished pieces hollow and as delicate as the original eucalypt specimen.

Tom Strachan
2010