Les's cover image


Year of Award: 1993 Award State: Tasmania Arts - Visual > Ceramics, Pottery And Glass
The Gallaugher Bequest Churchill Fellowship to study the latest techniques used in ceramic production - Denmark, Norway, Finland, UK

Les Blakebrough is one of Australia’s most recognised, influential and widely collected ceramic artists, with a career spanning six decades. His recent work exploits the translucency of unglazed porcelain, which has become his preferred medium for exploring the power of the natural world around him. His reflections on his Fellowship are shown below:

‘Stamina, optimism, and determination are the words that come to mind looking back at what seemed to be required.

The ‘doors’ that my Fellowship opened were very, very fortunate, and the resulting studies at some of the major ceramic factories in Denmark, Finland, and UK allowed an oversight that informed what I was to do in the following decades. It also informed teaching in the undergraduate Ceramics Program.’

The research program that was developed at The Ceramic Research Unit, Centre for the Arts, University of Tasmania, following his time away in 1993, had much of its inspiration from those experiences – particularly at Royal Copenhagen Porcelain, and The Arabia Factory in Helsinki.

In December 2010 Les moved from Hobart, Tasmania to Coledale, NSW, a former coalmining village south of Sydney. Here he built a new studio, put in a garden and created a home for his partner, daughter and two granddaughters.

This part of the Illawarra is a narrow strip of land squeezed between a high sandstone escarpment and the Pacific Ocean. Forest, cliff and sea are always in sight. In the subtropical climate the garden grows quickly. New sights and sounds have already made their mark on the work he is making there.

Les’ work continues to be made of Southern Ice Porcelain, the clay that he designed and researched some 20 years ago. While the pieces are glazed on the inside, most external surfaces remain unglazed, since this porcelain lends itself to being pared back and minimal.

Most of the work’s surface treatments arise out of experiences of place. The kelp forests of Eastern Tasmania continue to preoccupy Les, and many pieces have kelp-like images on their surfaces. He also has a strong intuition about the surf and the surf culture along this coast that pays homage to it: the works titled ‘Surf’s Up’ tie into life in Coledale. Other local images relate to the surface of the ocean in its quieter, less agitated moments.

Before they emerge as images, the ideas for his work can ferment for a long time. They get refined over time until he feels confident about them. 

Excerpt from “Bringing Knowledge Home” published by the Churchill Fellows Association of Tasmania (2016) 

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