Shane Kent : Ceramic Artist
Shane was born in 1958 in Melbourne. He wanted to study art after leaving school and applied to the university in Bendigo. The ceramics department interviewed him and offered him a place, which he accepted and which Shane says ‘was an adventure into the unknown rather than a specific desire to study ceramics’.
In his first year at Bendigo in 1978, he had two Japanese lecturers Shunichi Inoue and Hiroshi Seto. Hiroshi returned to Japan at the end of that year and invited a friend of Shane’s to study with him in Japan. Hiroshi, also arranged a teacher in the same village for Shane. This teacher was Mizuki Yoshikawa. In 1979 Shane spent a year studying with Mizuki where he was immersed in being part of a Japanese ceramics studio and in Japanese life, art and culture more generally.
In 1981-2 Shane was a production thrower for Victor Greenaway at the Broomhill Pottery at Upper Beaconsfield in Victoria. In 1984 Shane completed a Bachelor of Arts in Ceramics at Phillip Institute of Technology in Preston. This was followed by working as a teacher at Wesley College for four years after which Shane continued with further study at Phillip Institute in Preston completing a Graduate Diploma in Fine Arts in Sculpture. In 1986 Shane did a travel and study tour in Japan, Italy and England. This was followed with further study. Shane has been a teacher in the Diploma of Ceramics course and Coordinator of Ceramics at Box Hill Tafe for over twenty years. He has recently joined ‘Slow Clay’ to lead a range of classes in design development, sculpture and clay and glaze technology.
The time spent in Japan in 1979 however was a major influence on the development of Shane’s distinctive style and approach to ceramics and art and continues to do so. Shane says that the approach to the creation of a form in Japan is treated from the interior space not the exterior shape. Also, in Japan there is the acknowledgement that mastery takes a long time and late career artists were held in high esteem.
Shane has had a number of trips to central Australia to spend time in the landscape and to draw. He has visited significant places such as the Finke River in the MacDonnell ranges and Ruby Gap, which form a very important part in Shane’s experience of place and his receptivity to the nature of the experience. Shane quotes Cezanne; ‘the landscape thinks itself in me. I am its consciousness’ Shane uses a combination of wheel thrown work and hand building techniques to construct his forms. He uses elements of the Australian natural environment in the surface designs through scratching and inscribing into his ceramic forms. ‘His intimately scaled porcelain vessels draw from elements of the Australian landscape and employ a traditional ceramic staining technique to reference the intricacies of the natural environment’.
He feels that if his perception and drawing skills are up to it ‘I might become adequate to receive that which the landscape or the place is’.
The time spent studying a Masters in Drawing at Monash University from 2002-7 under the supervision of Geoff Du Pree, assisted Shane with drawing, seeing and thinking. ‘I now investigate the surface of my ceramics as a place where form and space meet, interpenetrate and possibly dissolve’.
Shane has also designed functional tableware for restaurants such as Cutler and Co and Golden Fields in Melbourne and more recently at Mina-no-ie in Collingwood. The designers and chefs who commissioned the tableware recognise that functional ceramics can be experienced at the aesthetic level and how much this tableware can affect the space they inhabit. At Mina-no-ie the design of the porcelain tableware directly affected the design of the space. The design of the concrete finish on the main service bench was made to echo the touch of the raw porcelain surface of the cups. Shane has also recently created a 30-plate wall piece for the Perth restaurant Print Hall where he worked closely with the designers of the fit out of the space.
Shane has exhibited at The Australian Galleries in Collingwood in 2011 and more recently in April 2013 in an exhibition titled ‘Last Winter’ and at Stephen McLaughlin Gallery in 2007, 2004 and 2002. He has exhibited widely in group shows from 1988 to 2011 and has work is in the collections of The Box Hill Regional Gallery, Phillip Institute of Technology and the Kangaroo Sculpture Prize Kangaroo Ground.
Shane teaches a course titled ‘Freeing the Eye’ at the Hawthorn Artists’ Society Studio on a Monday.
Shane Kent Interview. Words by: Julie Chiffey