ROS AULD

Artist Profile - - FRONT PAGE - STORY JU­DITH PUGH

Ros Auld’s in­tel­li­gence and sense of her­self as an artist en­cour­ages view­ers to see her pot­tery and sculp­ture in the con­text of her life and the un­forced way it has changed as she has changed over time. Her dis­ci­plined and un­pre­ten­tious ap­proach to mak­ing work and talk­ing about it makes a visit to her stu­dio a dream. ARTIST PRO­FILE vis­ited her at Borenore, near Orange, NSW.

ROS AULD WAS BORN IN INVERELL AND FIRST STUD­IED art teach­ing in New­cas­tle, on a teach­ing bond. There she ma­jored in paint­ing, was also taught the ba­sics of sculp­ture and, thank good­ness, went to a class in ce­ram­ics and “was hooked”. Af­ter teach­ing in sec­ondary schools and study­ing pot­tery part-time she went full-time to East Syd­ney Tech (now the Na­tional Art School). Peter Rush­forth was teach­ing there at the time: “He would show slides, we’d all rush to see them, he didn’t so much teach the Ja­panese aes­thetic as show us,” says Auld. Bernard Sahm pro­vided the el­e­ments of Euro­pean tech­nique. The 1970s, when Auld grad­u­ated, were a time of con­fi­dence, in­deed ex­u­ber­ance, as Aus­tralians spoke to each other in a lo­cal ac­cent across so many artis­tic gen­res: ver­nac­u­lar im­agery in mu­sic, plays and paint­ing took their place be­side Euro­pean clas­sics. This mood res­onated with the in­ter­na­tional in­flu­ence of pot­ter Bernard Leach, and the fo­cus on the dig­nity of the maker and an im­me­di­ate re­la­tion­ship with ma­te­ri­als, a loy­alty to the beauty of clay and nat­u­ral forms, tex­tures and colours. Auld trav­elled to Eng­land and worked in John Piper’s stu­dio, and on re­turn­ing to Aus­tralia she and her hus­band moved to the city of Orange in Cen­tral Western NSW, where en­thu­si­asm for pot­tery brought hun­dreds of stu­dents to the lo­cal TAFE. Auld showed me work she made in this pe­riod, dec­o­ra­tion in­scribed on the pot, the in­ter­est­ing un­cer­tainty of salt glaz­ing. Her dis­cus­sion of the tech­nique re­vealed an in­formed pro­fes­sion­al­ism, a happy en­gage­ment with the prac­ti­cal­i­ties of the mar­ket and a ca­pac­ity to fol­low her in­stincts and imag­i­na­tion. She and her hus­band found a sweet, small val­ley with a farm­let and sheds, and here they set­tled, re­mod­elling the lit­tle house, the shelves and walls of which dis­play the story of her work. As Orange be­gan en­cour­ag­ing the food and wine in­dus­tries, a friend sug­gested to Ros that she pro­duce a line of cook­ware, and here are plat­ters and bowls that heighten the plea­sure of lunch. She be­gan to in­tro­duce coloured glazes, es­pe­cially on large plat­ters; some of these gleam on the walls as we eat near the kitchen fire; it’s a cold day, and the clut­ter on the bench sits in front of a set of tiles dec­o­rated by a group of friends and in­stalled by Auld. The Ja­panese de­light in the im­per­fec­tion of cracks and odd un­ex­pected bub­bles in the glaze, and Auld has un­der­stood this. Her ex­per­tise shapes, in ev­ery sense of that word, the things she makes, but she en­joys the un­ex­pected. She has col­lab­o­rated with painters such as John Olsen and Tim Win­ters, and has shown draw­ings, paint­ings, col­lages and sculp­tures; there’s a framed fired im­age, and its glass brings the out­side in. She taught full- and part-time for some years, but as for all artists, there was a ten­sion; pupils’ prob­lems, help­ing them ex­press their ideas dis­tracted from her own. “It was not un­til I was alone in the stu­dio with time that I was able to de­velop my own style,” she ex­plains. It’s such a plea­sure to be able to be in the his­tory of the work, the most re­cent prod­ucts of that time alone. In what she calls her ves­sels, one can see the train­ing in paint­ing and sculp­ture, and ob­ser­va­tion and ex­pe­ri­ence of the land­scape come to­gether. They are mostly re­cep­ta­cles, so the sense of the maker be­ing a pot­ter re­mains. “I don’t want to fo­cus on func­tion, but I am in­ter­ested in the in­side/out­side,” says Auld. The ves­sels’ tex­tures and colours are those of a painter, and the forms sit in space as con­fi­dently as any sculp­ture. And there is some­how a sense of hu­mour … are the lit­tle sturdy feet a gen­tle hint about keep­ing your feet on the ground? One set of shelves, cups plates and bowls stacked into a cheer­ful clut­ter look like records of an­other kind. They are records: a his­tory of the maker, the fam­ily and friends who’ve car­ried them and put them on ta­bles and handed them around, who over time have washed and dried them. These piles of ob­jects are a ma­te­rial ac­knowl­edge­ment of re­la­tion­ship; be­tween maker and clay, clay and glaze, colour, mass, vol­ume, of the im­pulse of her pupils to learn, of shop­pers to buy, of friends and teach­ers. Auld’s lovely ob­jects re­flect this con­tented ac­cep­tance of life. The tex­tures and colours vary, they are both of the Aus­tralian land­scape, its vis­tas and in­ti­ma­cies, and of its rocks and stones; one wants to ca­ress the sur­face and look long at it. I asked to see some sculp­tures; the prob­lem was that she re­cently had a sell-out show. Those she’s kept again med­i­tate on art and on ma­te­ri­als, us­ing metal and clay, sit­ting beau­ti­fully in space. In the stu­dio, looking back to the house, one can see how space and place con­trib­ute to Auld’s work. The house re­tains the soul of a cot­tage, the win­dows let in light and re­veal the gar­den, but the spa­ces

are in­ti­mate and rest­ful, con­tem­pla­tive rather than dra­matic. The stu­dio is the same, an adapted shed, a prac­ti­cal warm work­ing space, and the win­dow looks to the house and gar­den. But with all this, there’s noth­ing in the work that speaks of do­mes­tic­ity, of some fem­i­nine soft aes­thetic. We only touch briefly on fem­i­nism, the his­toric “place” of women, when we are talk­ing about Auld’s bronzes. Her fa­ther de­signed and made farm ma­chin­ery, and sand­cast metal, and as a girl then she wasn’t taught about that; but this is a wry, good-hu­moured nod at the past: Auld is con­cerned with the present. Her pieces have an in­tel­lec­tual rigour borne of dis­ci­pline and tech­ni­cal ex­per­tise and an un­der­stand­ing of art move­ments and tra­di­tions. I ask who is her dealer. She shows and sells through pub­lic re­gional gal­leries, and it’s ob­vi­ous that this is very suc­cess­ful. She’ll have work at the new Narek Gal­leries on the NSW South Coast, and at Form Gallery in Quean­beyan, but she doesn’t show with any­one in the me­trop­o­lis. Of­ten one wishes that re­gional dwellers could have ac­cess to the lively con­tem­po­rary scene in the ma­jor cities. In the case of Ros Auld, the cities are miss­ing out.

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