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On display on Level 1


Brisbane, queensland, Australia born 1957

Tall vase 2015 Place made: Victoria, Australia
Materials & Technique: ceramics, vases, porcelain with matt crystal glaze

Dimensions: 58.0 h 38.0 diameter cm
Acknowledgement: Purchased with the assistance of the National Gallery of Australia Foundation and Barbara van Ernst AM 2015
Accession No: NGA 2015.873

With its organic crystalline pattern and subtle blue-green colour orchestration, this commanding work shows Ted Secombe’s confident and highly refined handling of form, glaze and colour. Its large ovoid shape, attenuated neck and smooth texture suggests the egg or egg case of an unknown creature, while its mottled colour evokes a process of transformation, transporting the viewer to an unknown territory of the natural world. A keen observer of nature, Secombe has developed glaze colours inspired by the changing seasons, investing his pots with a sense of transience, a quality underscored by the apparent fragility of his porcelain forms.

Secombe was born in Australia in 1957. He graduated with degrees in Biochemistry and Medical Technology from Downlands College in Queensland before commencing work in ceramics in 1979 while living in Toowoomba. He moved to the Yarra Valley in Victoria in 1989, where he established his pottery. Working full-time as a ceramicist, his specialty is the research, development and use of crystalline glazes on wheel-thrown porcelain forms, work that has placed him among the world’s leading crystalline glaze technologists.

The crystalline glaze technique produces surfaces with clusters of crystalline shapes embedded into a uniform zinc or calcium glaze. The control of these glazes is one of the most challenging of all ceramic techniques, requiring regulated cooling of the work after high-temperature firing to allow the crystals to develop variations in colour and pattern across the surface. With this accomplished work, Secombe invites the viewer to share the visual poetry of these explorations.

Robert Bell AM, Senior Curator, Decorative Arts and Design

in artonview, issue 83, Spring 2015

The control of crystalline glazes is among the most challenging of all ceramic techniques, with random and sometimes unpredictable variations in colour and pattern. With its organic crystalline pattern and subtle colour orchestration on a swelling, vegetal shape, this vase for flowers shows Secombe’s handling of form, glaze and colour to achieve the transient effect of mottled leaves, vegetables and fruit at the moment before decomposition.

Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2016
Author: Dr Robert Bell AM - Senior Curator Decorative Arts and Design