Sierra McManus

North Fitzroy Garage Sale Vase Detail Bowl, 2021

19 cm
It was my last bit of Feeney’s DSW. It seemed the last bit in the world. Someone said the pit had closed. I felt compelled to honour the final remnant of the stuff that had become my comfort clay with a piece more glorious than anything I’d tried before. At the same time, I felt the thrill of entering a new era. After this, perhaps I could abandon factory clays altogether. Staring into the circle of dark stoneware forming in my hands, considering nothing but the perfect circle, I lost myself inside a seemingly enormous bowl. A leech, picked up half-heartedly hunting for wild clay along the bank of Bottle Creek earlier that day, dropped from my thigh and lurched in the direction of the creek. A bowl hooks desire through functionality. To disrupt this desire the decoration must move us past the functional to the point of artefact – a charmed vessel. The vase from which the motif adorning the bowl is derived was acquired at a North Fitzroy garage sale in 2016. It is my favourite vase – but why this attachment? What is there in its decorative style that sucks at me? I took one sixth of the vase pattern and repeated it 16 times around the bowl. A vase can be anything that can hold a flower but a bowl has to serve as a bowl. Staring into the circle, approaching the perfect form in my hands, is an alternate obsession to that of the intricate repetition in decoration. Possessed by the decorative fragment, I intensely explore sentimentality. Repeating a sensation of love, slicing it up, and repeating a piece of it again, over and over, drags agents from the past and gives them new life. The North Fitzroy Garage Sale Vase Detail Bowl is a committed investigation of micro-histories of desire (the charms) in decoration. It’s to do with holding ages and epochs, but not preciously – loose in a bowl. A haul of oranges rolling over one another.
After completing a Bachelor of Fine Art at the National Art School in 2002, majoring in painting, Sierra spent the next decade traveling – living for periods in Paris, London, Montreal and Lyon. As she moved around her interest in painting shifted from oil on canvas to pen and watercolour on paper, working in sketchbooks or diaries and illustrating letters and postcards. In 2015 she painted poet’s portraits and houses as the feature artist for a double issue of Rabbit Poetry Journal. In 2017 she painted the cover image for Michael Farrell’s book ‘A Lyrebird’ (published by BazeVOX) and also in 2017 painted a watercolour a day for a year as part of a collaboration with Melody Paloma who wrote the poem ‘Some days’ (published by Sod press) in response. Also in 2017, having not touched clay since second year art school, Sierra joined the Bega Valley Potters. Sierra is now committed to handbuilt pottery, working with sgraffito, underglazes and oxides. Most recently, Sierra has exhibited a collection of ceramics decorated to match vintage fabrics (Green Queen, Bega) as part of Art Month Sapphire Coast. In the first quarter of 2021, Sierra painted 50 watercolour portraits for Memory Book, a book of poetry celebrating senior Australians, recently released through Hunter Publishers.

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