ceramic artist at stockroom
Guy Grey-Smith (1916-1981) is justly recognised as one of the most significant Western Australian artists of the 20th Century. His dramatically textured paintings are abstracted distillations of his beloved landscape, pared to the very essence of an underlying ‘life force’. Loaded with a homemade beeswax medium, they pulsate with colour. His skill was not only confined to painting and he also produced a rich legacy of frescos, prints and ceramics. He commenced his training in 1946 under Heber Matthews at Woolwich Polytechnic in London, inspired by the studio practice of the artisan-potter Bernard Leach. Guy studied for just under two years, mastering the wheel, glazing and firing techniques, and on the family’s return to Western Australia his had a large electric kiln installed soon after their house in Perth’s Darling Ranges was finished in late 1950.
His hand-built studio was a two-sided open room featuring a roof made from 44-gallon drums which Guy placed on the road, employing a road-roller to flatten them out. The low stone-and-cement walls afforded him a clear view beyond to the rocks and trees while seated at the wheel. He sourced the clay from a local roadside and prepared it all himself. The hands-on involvement obviously held a great appeal, and Guy was considered to have a natural flow as a potter. Over the years, the applied marks on Guy’s pottery would become more calligraphic but were always inspired by nature – fronds, leaves, seed pods and stems. His niece Margaret, who he often showed how to throw pots, recalls one enlightening episode:
He was once decorating some beakers and had about twelve or more dried before firing. He was doing the decorating and showed me how a couple of lines or a circular form based on nature could become abstracted. So he started on one, then on another, then he said ‘you can see how it becomes more spare, simplified as you get to the essence of the shape’. He worked really quickly. Really interesting to watch. Added to my whole understanding of painting. I really thought his pottery was just a vehicle for his painting. As they are really painterly.
Guy Grey-Smith’s ceramic work was recognised on a national level during his lifetime with many State galleries purchasing examples. He is also listed in most standard references on Australian pottery. In recognition of the importance of ceramics within his practice, an extensive exhibition was held at the Undercroft Gallery of the University of Western Australia in 1976 to coincide with a major Retrospective of his paintings held at the Art Gallery of Western Australia.
Stockroom is delighted to have this selection of increasingly rare ceramics by Guy Grey-Smith available for sale to our discerning shoppers, sourced from the private collection of a close colleague of the artist. Offered for sale for the first time since their initial purchase in 1967-1969, these distinctive vases, bowls and beakers possess a timeless appeal.
Gallery Coordinator, Stockroom, Kyneton
Author, Guy Grey-Smith: Life force, UWA Publishing, Perth, 2012