Local Artist Series // Shannon Garson

Who are you and what do you create?
My name is Shannon Garson I am an artist, writer and curator based in Maleny with a studio practice spanning 20 years that includes commissions for festivals, exhibitions at public and private galleries, and arts advocacy.  I work across a range of media using drawing, ceramics , photography and performance to investigate the relationship between human activity and the infinite variety of striations, spots, and marks found in nature. Recurrent themes in my work examine fragile eco systems, this has built up a body of work spanning decades that brings a sense of intensity and intimacy to my intricate, abstract drawings of the natural world contained within fragile porcelain forms.

What materials and techniques do you use?
Over the last twenty years I’ve been refining my throwing skills using porcelain and working with drawing using a mixture of underglaze oxides and found clay that I make into my own pigments. From the very first time I made pots I wanted to make fine white vessels. I mainly use porcelain for it’s beautiful surface quality and interaction with colour. I think I bring a lot of skills in observation and composition and formal elements of draftsmanship to ceramics through training my hand and eye as a painter.  I want the surface of the pot to be part of the drawing, not just a surface for the drawing to sit on.  I want the whole pot to be experienced, from the weight of it as you pick it up, the texture, the drawing, colour, smoothness of the glaze, all the elements, draw the viewer into experiencing the vessel.  I bring the same techniques based on drawing to installation, video/performance work and curation.  The goal is to create an experience that uses line, form and composition to draw the viewer in so we are on a journey together.

What kind of inspirations go into your work?
Every exhibition starts with an idea about a body of work I want to make. My studio research has been involved with articulating the Australian landscape, in particular the overlooked, marginal edges. I go out into the scrub and immerse myself in the landscape. Last time I was on Stradbroke Island we beat our way through wallaby tracks and scrub that reached over our heads, from the white expanse of a sandblow, singular dune surrounded by deep green forest, to the beach. There is a particular, spicy, warm, vegetal smell to the trunks and branches when you are down amongst them, the light is dappled, and the birdsongs pool and ripple in the air washing against the ears.  It is almost as if you could see these molten moving sounds, pooling golden, in your peripheral vision. I take many photographs during this phase but I also try to set the tone of my whole practice by being aware of details, looking carefully, letting the landscape and the experience suggest to me what direction I should go when I get back to the studio.

In what space do you like to create most?
I have a beautiful studio under our Queenslander in Maleny.  The research is done in all sorts of environments, the wallum, the coast, rockpools, harbours but the work of drawing, making installations, is done in my studio.

What has been your favourite or most important work to date?
I had an exhibtion at Beaver Galleries in Canberra in October 2019 called “Precious Nature”. The work for “Precious Nature” was all about the Welcome Swallows. This small migratory bird swoops and dives over an area of marsh near my house. The Welcome Swallow feeds on the wing and this has led to the evolution of their amazing acrobatic flight as they loop through the air catching insects. I walk around the marsh as the evening falls and the Welcome swallows dive, the water is slivery and very dark near the tall banks of reeds.  Welcome Swallows were named by sailors as the sight of their flashing blue bodies and red breasts mean that land is near. The work for Precious Nature is a series  of large rocking bowls, the bowls themselves move and rock, unsteady on their rounded bases as the flight of the swallows swoops in a drawing across the surfaces inside and outside the bowls, over the rims and underneath. Welcome Swallows capture both the gladness of returning home and the strange melancholy of the end of the journey.

I also loved doing the project “Marine Ostinato last year for the Australian Ceramics Triennale in Hobart. I was commissioned by the Australian Ceramics Triennale to produce a performance using live music, drawing, ceramic throwing and shadow puppetry! The team came from all over Australia, Louise King (a much admired and loved Sunshine Coast musician) and her cello and I flew in from Qld , Jen Brown the video artist drove from Launceston, and film maker Nicholas Higgins came over from the remote east coast of Tasmania.

This project will be a springboard for further projection projects.  I can see so many possibilities to engage audiences with drawing and making through performance and projection.  We couldn’t have done it without support from an RAF grant from Flying Arts. If you’d like to see the films, take a look here:

To see more of Shannon’s work, head to her website or Instagram.