Kate Dorrough: The Vessel and the River

27 July - 12 August 2023
Exhibition Text

Dorrough’s body of work is an invitation to float suspended within the landscape – like silt in a river. A sensation that draws its embodied inspiration from the artist's memories of swimming in creeks on family holidays during her formative years. Floating in a natural body of water alters our relationship to our surroundings, as we look upwards, trees appear taller and more ethereal, skies seem preternaturally blue against shimmering, pink, sandstone forms. Whilst one is floating, one’s body becomes alert to tiny shifts in the atmosphere, one feels connected to something deeper, older, and more mysterious. The experience of floating is intuition made real, reminding us we are not separate from that which surrounds us. Each of Dorrough's artworks becomes a testament to our intimate connection with the earth, reminding us of the eternal rhythmic pulse of creation, destruction, and renewal, and the exquisite beauty and vulnerability inherent in every stage.


Infusing her work with a personal lexicon of symbolic motifs, that at times resemble trees, serpents, and humans, and at other times read as abstract notations alluding to hidden meanings. Dorrough’s leitmotifs are informed by musical scores and by her own drawings completed in the landscape and refined in the studio. Occasionally, in exquisitely intimate moments of motherly affection, laced with anxiety and hope, her marks are inspired by the vulnerable, handwritten script of her children. Dorrough carries this lexicon of marks across her paintings and on to her clay vessels, across whose surface, the calligraphic traces of the artist’s hand continues to occur like a rhythmic pulse. Her pots are contemporary iterations of classical, utilitarian vessels, inspired by her time working on an archaeological dig in Greece where Dorrough fell in love with the ancient, monumental forms of Etruscan pottery.


The tangible nature of paint and clay play a crucial role in Dorrough's exploration of creation and destruction. Her textured passages created with a palette knife, and the interplay between transparent and opaque washes of paint create a sense of space and time in her works, resembling the geological processes that shape our surroundings. Her painterly process emulates the gradual accumulation and erasure of earth over time, like the way a riverbed carves its path – a path continuously shaped by the impacts of metrological events such as storms, droughts, and floods. This body of work is both beautiful and portentous, reflecting the complexities of our relationship with the earth and the legacies we leave behind.


Kate Dorrough’s artworks evoke an expansive, arcane, geological, connection to the land we inhabit, a land operating as an archaeological vessel holding past events within its body of mud and water. A land haunted by vast and indelible memories of what went before. Whilst Dorrough’s marks are conduits for the artist's personal memories, they carry traces of the collective unconscious, Jung’s concept that memories surpass the limitation of the individual and are common to humanity and carried in the inherited structure of the brain. Dorrough invites us to contemplate the ephemeral nature of existence and the interplay between memory, perception, and ever-changing landscapes that not only shape all our lives, but on which all our lives depend. – Naomi Lee McCarthy


Dorrough’s work as a painter and ceramicist has led to an extensive career exhibiting work at leading galleries in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Canberra, as well as a number of residencies including La Macina di San Cresci, Italy (2018), Art Vault (2011), the Hill End Artists Residency (2005), Bundanon Trust (1999) and the Cite Internationale des Arts in Paris (1999). She has been a finalist in a number of awards including the Calleen Art Award (2020, 2019, 2018), North Sydney Art Prize (2022, 2019), Muswellbrook Art Prize (2019, 2015), Paddington Art Prize (2021, 2018, 2012, 2011, 2007), Mosman Art Prize (2019, 2012, 2004, 2001, 2000, 1995), Portia Geach Memorial Award (2004, 2001, 1992), Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize (2010, 2008), Sawmillers Sculpture Prize (2022, 2010), Clunes Ceramic Art Award (2022, 2010), and was selected for the Australian Ceramics Association Biennial Exhibition (2014). Dorrough’s work is also held in various public and private collections around Australia, including Campbelltown Art Gallery, Sony Music Entertainment, Grafton Regional Gallery, Bathurst Regional Gallery and Melbourne Casino.

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