Literal treasure chests of porcelain characterize the botanical work of Australian artist Alice Couttoupes. In addition to her installation work at, Eponymic Emperialisms (2014) at Chalk Horse, she also makes wonderfully delicate porcelain masks that cover the faces of dapper young people. The detail in these works, down to every little leaf and needle is exquisite.
But the beauty masks something troubling. From the artist’s statement for Chalk Horse:
The seduction of the images are part of their critical strategy. The title Eponymic Emperialism relates to the practice of colonial power naming flora and fauna and land marks as a way of enculturating a land. So most obviously in this series the Banksia is named after Joseph Banks for example. When you start to think about it though many words that we use to discuss Australia have a deep colonial baggage: Victoria, La Perouse etc. Eponymy is the act of naming things in this way. It is hard to re-image these things with any criticality because long ago these words have become so naturalised as to make critique difficult. One thing that lead Couttoupes to this topic too is that ceramic in Australian history has often been used as part of this eponymic process, through commemorative medals and plates.
Language is power. It has the ability to make and remake the world. Language can be weaponized, turned against people. It conveys ideas but can also be used to erase ideas. These points are hard to convey even in text, so it’s exciting to see them executed visually.
About the Artist
Alice completed a combined Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Fine Arts (First Class Honours) at UNSW in 2013 and was selected to exhibit at ‘Hatched’ at the Perth Institute of Contemporary Art in 2014 which is an exhibition of the top fine arts graduate students throughout Australia, according to her ArtIncubator biography.
Alice was awarded a second grant by Art Incubator in 2015 which enabled her to buy a kiln. She was also awarded a Marten Bequest Travelling Scholarship which she used to undertake residencies in Jingdezhen, the ‘porcelain city’ in China and in Arita, Japan. Alice has also been invited to participate at the 2016 Contemporary Ceramics Biennale in Jakarta.
During 2016 Alice has participated in group exhibitions at Edwina Colette Gallery in Brisbane and in “Contemporary Porcelain: Ten Australian Masters” at Kerrie Lowe Gallery in Sydney.
Currently Alice’s work is on exhibition in the new Sydney offices of Metropolis Inc.
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