Vale: Gwyn Hanssen Pigott

Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Australia 1935–2013 / Dark still life with silver beaker 1994 | Porcelain, wheelthrown, wood fired with lustrous manganese glaze breaking to speckled blue. Matt interior to bowl / Purchased 1994. Queensland Art Gallery Foundation / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist

Gwyn Hanssen Pigott passed away suddenly in London on 5 July 2013, two days after suffering a stroke. She had stayed on there after showing recent work in an exhibition at Erskine, Hall & Coe, the distinguished West End gallery. According to all accounts, she was full of vigour and plans for the future, intending to return to the United Kingdom to see her work installed in Chatsworth House and to travel to Hong Kong and Shigaraki in Japan later in the year.

The rich traditions of functional ceramics informed Gwyn Hanssen Pigott’s work throughout her long, distinguished and productive career. With an astonishingly consistent vision and with precise standards of execution developed through a long study of both Asian and European pottery, she was exceptionally well practised in wood-firing. Her work was always impeccable, poised, thoughtful.

After 1988, however, the work took a new and innovative turn: inspired by the Italian twentieth-century painter Giorgio Morandi, Hanssen Pigott began to form groups of her pots into still-life arrangements. The profiles, volumes and materials of these vessels are endowed with special significance, even a metaphysical dimension, and they open up the possibility of expressing time: groups of pots may be interpreted in terms of duration, interval, repetition and variation. However, the titles often indicate Hanssen Pigott’s strong interest in social relations, movement and travel, with the pots sometimes seeming like groups of people, a possibility that the artist herself acknowledged.

Very rarely can one say that a person died as they had lived. Yet this was true of Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, who lived life to the full, right until the end. We last saw her at the Queensland Art Gallery in March this year — she came in to place her work ‘Dark still life with silver beaker’ 1994 in Michael Zavros’s ‘Artist Choice’ exhibition, loving the exuberance and irreverence of the show. A wonderful artist, and an energetic, engaging and intelligent contributor to Australian life, she will be sorely missed.

Gwyn Hanssen Pigott ‘s Travellers no. 3 2001 will be on display at the Melbourne Street entrance to the Queensland Art Gallery from Friday 26 July.

Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Australia 1935–2013 / Drift (detail) 2005 / Wheelthrown and slip-cast Limoges and Southern Ice porcelains with glazes / 19 parts / Purchased 2005. The Queensland Government’s Gallery of Modern Art Acquisitions Fund / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist
Gwyn Hanssen Pigott, Australia 1935–2013 / Three inseparable bowls c.1988-89 / Porcelain, wheelthrown and wood fired / Gift of the Josephine Ulrick and Win Schubert Foundation for the Arts through the Queensland Art Gallery Foundation 2012. Donated through the Australian Government’s Cultural Gifts Program / Collection: Queensland Art Gallery / © The artist