“Art was instantly magical”, says Susan Jacobsen of her first experience with shaping clay, dug from a local country creek as a child. “Clay’s honest response to touch and its potential when fired for longevity is remarkable. The tactility of clay will forever hold a fascination for me.”
Susan has spent many years refining her skills in ceramics. Today, her materials act as a physical connection to the landscape that defines her practice. The rough and raw terrain surrounding the Richmond River near her home in far northern NSW finds itself transformed through her works, which offer fragmentary glimpses of a dynamic and extraordinary country.
Alongside her work in sculpture, which has nabbed her first prize in this year’s Little Things Art Prize ceramics division, Susan also works in paint, ink and collage. Unsurprisingly, the gesture and physicality of mark-making that typifies her sculptural practice is also intrinsic to her work in other media.
Susan begins all of her work with drawings executed en plein air, where she rigorously records the Australian landscape whilst being immersed in the sights and sounds of the natural world. From these drawings, and other objects she collects on site, she proceeds through a process of abstraction and interpretation in her studio, often to the tunes of Nick Cave.
Gesture is key to her practice, with intense periods of physical work interspersed with moments of reflection and contemplation.
She describes this process as akin to calligraphy: “sheer life experienced through energy in motion”. Perhaps this is why she often incorporates black ink in her pieces, which she loves for its immediacy and intensity. Slashes of deep black and vibrant colour draw the viewer into her works, challenging us to look deeper into these moments of light and space, through which she says “the power and healing potential of nature is revealed”.
In addition to her recent success at the Little Things Art Prize, Susan has also been a finalist in the Paddington Art Prize, the Country Energy Landscape Prize, the Redlands Art Award, the Stanthorpe Art Festival, the 29th Gold Coast Ceramics Art Award, the Manning Art Prize: Naked and Nude, the Salon de Refusés Parliament Plein Air Painting Prize, the Bay of Fires Art Award, the National Still Life Award, the Border Art Prize and the BAM Art Prize.
Through her work, Susan hopes to convey ‘”gratitude for the ability to experience and respond to this extraordinary country”. Her works encourage us to appreciate the rugged beauty of the place she calls home, finding peace within its resilience and unending potential. Susan’s passion for the Australian landscape is evident in every line.
Featured image: Susan Jacobsen, Lighthouse track. Ink, acrylic and collage on board 22 x 31cm.