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In a sunny backyard in Melbourne’s north, we huddled into Kari Lee’s home studio. The beauty of visiting a ceramicists studio is there is always plenty to look at, pick up and hold. Kari showed us around her space and told us how she transferred the things she originally loved about painting, into a ceramics and sculpture practice.
How did you find your way into painting and sculpture?
I started studying at VCA, where I moved from illustration into sculptural painting with a focus on minimalism and abstraction. My love of ceramics began in a year break after this degree. I made a bunch of pinch pots using air dry clay. My housemate at the time was doing slip casting and taught me too, I quickly became a bit obsessed.
All of a sudden I was working with clay and I found it was the same surface I was trying to get with my paint. I was really into colour theory when I was painting and this translated into the way I approached ceramics too. I loved the scientific process of playing with glazes.
Previously, when you’ve exhibited it’s been a part of a group show. How does this affect the way you work?
I really love working with the object makers who I did the show at Junior Space with last year: Tessy King, Sam O’Farrell, Niamh Minogue, Caelan Blake. Objects of Ideation was really different to how I would display my work on my own – which would be quite minimal. When I work with others I tend to let go a bit of how rigid I can be. In the group show our personalities are combined together, with each of the works responding to one another.
Some group shows I plan the layout beforehand, but with this one we brought a bunch of work we all liked and then looked at how we could work with the space. We started with one piece on the wall and then went from there.
Do you think about the work you make for a gallery space versus how it will live in someone’s home?
In Objects of Ideation our work was all mixed together. The common tie was that we are all making ceramics, but displaying them quite differently to the conventional way ceramics were historically presented. We wanted the viewer to touch and feel the work and play with it.
Recently, I’ve been playing with interior architectural spaces. I read Gaston Bachelard’s book, The Poetics of Space. It is all about how different spaces represent memories with a greater story. For example: looking at how the corner of the room can represent the experience of being banished/ alone/ empty and being in trouble…or how this area of a room is normally an empty space.
You’ve also spoken about the personal side to your work. Can you tell us a bit about this?
I’m interested in the spaces that people forget about or ignore. For an upcoming project I’m working on with Nell Grant I have made moulds of sections of Seventh gallery with pinkysil, which I will then make into ceramic.
If it is a piece going to be in a home, it is about me letting go. I watched a video of Agnes Martin, who spoke about this process… “once a work goes out the door that is it”.
How does working in Melbourne inspire or affect you?
I’ve never worked anywhere else, but I’m always finding new local artists I love. Also, being stocked in places like Junior Space has been awesome. When I first started doing ceramics I used to think it had to be functional to be stocked in galleries or shops. Junior Space has changed that for me.
You’ll find plenty of Kari-Lee’s creations around the Junior Space store. If you find one you like, prices start from $30 – SHOP KARI LEE