The Art of Victor Greenaway, Italy 2007 - 2012

Exhibition: The Art of Victor Greenaway, Italy 2007 - 2012
Date of Exhibition: March 14 - April 14 2012
Artist: Victor Greenway
Place: Manningham Gallery, 699 Doncaster Road Doncaster

Artist Statement:

“An idea is the principle element for the artist, the material of less consequence. If I cannot create something in porcelain I must think of other materials. For this reason I decided in 2007 to redirect my attention, to travel to Italy and reside there for several years and concentrate on painting. The trip also enabled me to develop my work with Etruscan bucchero ceramics, offering a unique opportunity of collaboration with other professional artists. In this time I have expressed my impressions of Italy in clay, paint and ink, living within the culture and amongst the people, associating with fellow artists in direct cultural exchange. I have also been able to study and to absorb the history of this ancient peninsula steeped in art and culture spanning two and a half millennia. My new environment offers a world of inspiration in the form of objects found in museums from historic monuments and sites dating back to the Etruscans and leading up to the Italian Renaissance. With centres of the arts such as Rome, Florence and Venice on my doorstep, I have been able to study masterpieces and observe the living history that is Italy, enhancing inspiration from my own life along with observations of the environment and its people.”

On the ceramics:

Recent ceramic forms have been influenced greatly by the traditional shapes that emerged from the Etruscan society 2,500 years ago, especially in the larger, stemmed open bowls or "calice" and the decorative friezes that chase abstract shapes around the surfaces, but influenced too from the smoothness of marble and classical forms that are everywhere. Several trips to Venice inspired a series of pieces adding imagery to the surfaces depicting the colour and reflections of the inherent carnivale atmosphere, as well as thinning and altering the fine porcelain rims to resemble the transient movement of water.

On the paintings:

To me, painting is a form of dialogue; I enter with some general ideas, but the outcome is far from preconceived since it all largely depends on what kind of resistance the painting offers. I am attempting to create a form of language gathering up a vocabulary and presenting interpretations of things around me in such a way that will make the vision I see clear to the viewer.

On the drawings:

The use of printer’s ink on paper enables me to extend the creative process to form a different means of perspective. It both clarifies and unifies the expression in the paintings and in the surface decoration of the porcelain and creates a moment of vision that cuts beneath the surface of the more literal interpretation of an image.

Victor Greenaway, 2012


Victor Greenaway is an internationally renowned artist represented widely in public and private collections worldwide. He has received many awards including a Winston Churchill Fellowship (1974) and an Arts Victoria award (1998), under the "International Export & Touring Program," to take an exhibition of work to Italy in 1999. In 1999 he was also awarded a Fellowship from the International Specialised Skills (ISS) Institute to assist in setting up an international school of ceramics in Umbria, Italy. More recently, in recognition of a long and impressive career and a continuing creative energy, he was awarded the prestigious Australia Council Fellowship for 2001 - 2002. He was admitted to the 52nd International Competition for Contemporary Ceramic Art at Il Museo Internazionale delle Ceramica in Faenza, Italy, and undertook a craftsman-in-residence position in Belgium in 2002, with exhibitions to follow across Europe from then, continuing to the present day.

In 2005, the fine art book company, the Beagle Press (Sydney) published a beautifully presented monograph celebrating 40 years of the artist’s work. In 2007 he established a painting studio in Orvieto, Italy where he resides for most of the year while still maintaining the painting and ceramic studio in East Gippsland, Victoria.

Professional Development - Highlights
Diploma of Art, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, 1967; Manager of the late Ian Sprague's Mungeribar Pottery, 1971 - 1973; Churchill Fellow: study tour of training methods for the artist/potter in Japan, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the United Kingdom, 1974; Established and ran Broomhill Pottery at Upper Beaconsfield, 1974 - 1992; Co-ordinated the Ceramic Workshop at the Victorian Meat Market Craft Centre, 1993 - 1998; Established new painting and ceramic studios at Nungurner, Gippsland Lakes, 1994 - . From 2007 - in Italy continuing painting, drawing & ceramics as well as undertaking ceramic workshops and exhibitions in Switzerland, Belgium and the United Kingdom.

Selected Awards: Among many prestigious awards, Greenaway has received an Australia Council Fellowship, 2001-2002; ISS (International Specialised Skills) Fellowship, 1999; Arts Victoria award under the "International Export & Touring Program," 1999; Churchill Fellowship, 1974; Stuart Devlin Award 1981 & 1983; Gold Coast International Ceramic Award - Acquisition, 2006; La Trobe University Acquisitive Ceramics Award, 2006; Castlemaine Art Gallery, 2006; Townsville City Council Award, 2008.

Selected List of Acquisitions: Bendigo Art Gallery, 2009; Rockhampton Art Gallery, 2008; Bendigo Art Gallery, 2007; Gippsland Art Gallery, Sale, Victoria, 2005; Bendigo Art Gallery, 2005; Shepparton Art Gallery, 2005; Art Gallery of Western Australia, 2005; National Gallery of Australia, Canberra (most recent acquisition, 2002); Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza, Italy; Museo della Ceramica, Palazzo Brugiotti, Viterbo, Italy; Museum for Modern Keramik, Deidesheim, Germany; National Gallery of Victoria; New Parliament House Art Collection, Canberra; The Art Galleries of Western Australia and Queensland; Powerhouse Museum, Sydney; Seto Ceramic Institute, Nagoya, and the Sharp Corporation; Japan; Southland Museum, and the Auckland Museum, New Zealand; Private Collection Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands; The English Gallery, Geissenheim, Germany; McClelland Gallery, Victoria; Newcastle City Art Gallery; Brisbane City Hall Collection; Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery, Tasmania; Australian National University (ACT) and the University of Tasmania; Darling Downs College (QLD) and the Victorian Teachers' College Collection (VIC); Art Bank, Victoria; Queensland Potters' Association; Curtin Institute of Technology, Perth; Crafts Board, various collections; State Craft Collection, Victoria; Regional Galleries of Shepparton, Gippsland, Ararat, Horsham, and Narracorte, & others.

Recent Exhibitions

2012: Manningham Gallery/Skepsi Gallery, Melbourne VIC AU
2011: Beaver Galleries, Canberra ACT; Bett Gallery, Hobart, TAS AU
2010: Framed Gallery, Darwin, NT AU; Studio Altenburg, Braidwood, NSW AU; Ab OVO Gallery, Todi IT; Stafford Studios, Perth WA, Museo Faina as part of the “Artelier Aperto”, Orvieto ITALY; Studio d’Arte (collaborative with Marino Moretti) Viceno ITALY; 2009: Cudgegong Gallery, Gulgong, NSW; Skepsi on Swanston, Melbourne VIC; Makers Mark Gallery, Melbourne; 2008: PULS Gallery, Brussels BE; AbOvo Gallery, Todi IT; 2007: PULS Gallery, Brussels BE; Beaver Galleries, Canberra ACT; 2006: Gallery 482, Brisbane, QLD6; Cudgegong Gallery, Gulgong, NSW; Studio Altenburg, Braidwood NSW; Skepsi on Swanston, Melbourne VIC; 2005 (book launches/exhibitions): O.P.T. 5 Fine Art Gallery, Hong Kong; Newcastle Regional Gallery, NSW; Skepsi on Swanston, Melbourne; Object Gallery, Sydney; Stafford Studios of Fine Art, Perth. Numerous group shows and more than 90 "one-man shows" have been held over the period from 1968-2011. Also represented in many Exhibitions, selected by invitation

Monograph: Victor Greenaway Ceramics 1965-2005 Fwd Janet Mansfield/Int Tim Jacobs. The Beagle Press, SYD AU 2005.

Bibliography: References to Greenaway's work: various national/international books, amongst others: Peter Lane’s Contemporary Studio Porcelain, 2004; Porcelain & Bone China, Sasha Wardell 2004; numerous national and international journals such as Craft Australia, Pottery in Australia, Craft Australia Yearbook, Craft Arts International, Ceramics Art and Perception, Ceramic Review UK.

The Art of Victor Greenaway
Exhibition of ceramics, drawings and paintings
Manningham Gallery, Melbourne Australia,
14 March – 14 April 2012
by Kim Martin

Victor Greenaway is an artist who has his feet firmly planted in two countries, and a serious foothold within two major forms of artistic expression.
In Italy he paints full time from his studio in the countryside of Orvieto. Situated between Florence and Rome, surrounded by grape vines and olive trees, this serene backdrop provides space for contemplation and for work. Periodically Greenaway inspires guests and fellow artists with educational tours and well researched forays in to the heart of the historical art world that runs through the veins of Italian culture.

When he returns annually to Australia, he puts his hands back into clay and effortlessly produces new ceramic forms in fine porcelain. This separate yet symbiotic relationship between his loves undeniably makes for an enviable work and lifestyle balance.

Over 40 years Victor Greenaway has forged a formidable career primarily as an Australian ceramic artist. Widely recognised for his skilfully executed vessels, Greenaway has an extensive reputation and is represented in both public and private collections throughout Australia and overseas. Regarded as a master in the field, he has inspired the creative development of many ceramicists and brought the art of ceramics to the forefront of public attention.

Early on in his vocation, together with his full time commitment to clay as a medium, Greenaway recognised in himself the desire to paint and draw. Addressing this meant that Greenaway frequently imbued painterly images on to the surfaces of his ceramics, and he continues to do so now with great skill and dexterity.

Setting the bar high, he has honed his techniques to produce work that pushes the boundaries of the material. Consumed with the depth, possibilities and complexities of working in ceramics, Greenaway creates forms that are unique and at the same time can be regarded as three dimensional canvases for his ongoing enquiry into brushwork, imagery and decoration. Swiftly applied flowing brushstrokes, of subtle tones and varied weight, lead the eye around the form, or draw attention to a central point. The confidence of the mark making and the style in which Greenaway paints the surfaces have become recognisable hallmarks of his work.

Within Greenaway’s paintings and ceramics there is a sense of order and refinement combined with a character that conveys stability. The disciplined experience of working with clay underpins his dedication as a painter and has clearly left an indelible mark on this maker. Clarity of purpose combined with a fierce dedication to refine and create, highlight Greenaway’s notable style.

This exhibition clearly lays out Greenaway’s motivations and a range of current directions. Selected images are brought forth in a visual feast gracing the surface of the canvases. Greenaway is serious in his endeavour to convey his artistic concerns, which are steeped in the history of Italy. Captivated by the region of Orvieto, Greenaway has settled in to a way of life that fuels his aesthetic sensibilities. Moving between paint and clay allows each medium and thought to feed into the other, thus informing the subject matter. From this platform, Greenaway continues to extend his talent. Pushing through various elements Greenaway explores structure and surface treatments, ultimately stretching his repertoire.

The porcelain forms in this latest body of work bear the marks of lyrical and symbolic application. Striped elevated feet stabilise the pieces and at the same time add a whimsical element. The vessels also indicate a subtle relinquishing of the spiral structure that has underpinned Greenaway’s ceramic work over the past decade. There is no doubting Greenaway’s technical expertise and his control of the processes; however, in this exhibition there appears to be movement towards an alignment that relates more to the language of construction and architectural form, rather than an obvious connection to the potter’s wheel.

In the painted canvases, the black and white drawings and the thrown forms there is an obvious cross-fertilisation of ideas. The colours Greenaway has selected to decorate the interiors and exteriors of the vessels reflect the palette chosen for the two dimensional works. Pastel colours and sepia tones thread through the works, punctuated occasionally by the inclusion of red glaze or paint.

The relationship between the artist and his sources of inspiration is personal and perceptibly a close one. In particular, his excursion into portraiture reveals a genuine sense of connection and excitement with his subjects. Here we can see a deep interest in the notion of relationship and a fresh level of attention given to revealing emotion through paint. Even more, we can see Greenaway’s intention to communicate his experiences and impressions through his work. The paint is applied with confidence and sensitivity generating subtlety, depth and movement.
In this body of work Greenaway also deliberately chooses to work in black and white as well as with colour. He pushes the clay walls, stretching the limits of the clay with conviction. Aspects of these vessels are undoubtedly reminiscent of classical Italian architecture, religion and spirituality. The pieces are elevated by the cylindrical foot that supports the fluid translucent walls, gracefully disappearing quietly through undulating paper thin edges.

In the black and white ink drawings we see illustrated scenes of ancient ruins grounded in historical reference. Additions of figures moving through the compositions bring life and movement to the picture plane by way of contrast to the architectural rudiments. Greenaway frequently features arched doorways and columns in his drawings and paintings, literally and metaphorically. The drawings in this particular body of work take on a graphic, print-like quality. The placement of form, line and texture is carefully considered and executed. The mood is light and modern compared to the paintings, where Greenaway is striving more for realism than abstraction.

Through this exhibition, one can appreciate the planning and realisation of the work and at the same time wonder whether Greenaway would like to break out and free himself from all constraints that underscore his abilities. His work is fresh rather than spontaneous, threatening to bear another fruit and yet waiting in calm sophistication for the right moment.

Linking all the aspects of this exhibition is tempting, and perhaps for Victor Greenaway a necessary process. They can also be comfortably viewed as separate parts that make up chapters in his story. Through the various media can be seen the complexities associated with idea and outcome, with influence and interpretation. The relationship between each mode of expression is mostly tangible and at times elusive, so that further inquiry is sought and in a sense demanded by the work. Greenaway has embarked on a personal journey and has invited us along for the ride.

Kim Martin is a freelance writer and critic
Specialising in the review of fine art and contemporary craft.
The work is supported by her practice and experience as an artist.
Contact details:
Mailing Address:
P.O. Box 8086,
Victoria, Australia, 3143