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Dawn Beasley: Botanically Porcelain

3 March - 15 April 2023

Dawn Beasley is an artist based in Darwin, on Larrakia Country, whose creative practice examines the relationships between humans and the natural world we occupy. Using forms found in nature as a point of reference, Beasley creates porcelain sculptures that range from exact renderings of specific species to entirely otherworldly creations. These become part of larger installations that immerse the viewer in a world of uncharted delicacy; their dramatic scale mirrors the magnitude of the subject matter they bring into focus. As the limits of what our natural environment can sustain continue to be pushed, Beasley speaks of growth, resilience and survival.

In Dawn Beasley’s Botanically Porcelain, a path winds through more than one thousand fragile sculptures. As you watch each careful step you take, you become entirely conscious of your body within the space, and your connection to the delicate objects that surround you. Sensing their vulnerability, you find yourself imagining the possibilities of what could happen. Alive with the knowledge that just one misstep could wreak havoc and destruction, impossible to reverse. Standing in the middle of this floor-based installation, the enormous power we have as individuals is revealed.

The Northern Centre for Contemporary Art is delighted to open its 2023 artistic program with a solo exhibition of new and recent work by Darwin based artist Dawn Beasley. Since 1989, NCCA has played a crucial role in showcasing Northern Territory artists, providing a critical platform for them to develop and exhibit ambitious and experimental art.

A visit to Beasley’s studio at Tactile Arts quickly reveals the nature of her process-driven practice. Surrounded by an array of porcelain forms in various stages of their life-cycle, Beasley describes the production of her new work, Husk Redux, 2022-23. An experimental process of trial and error that involves slip-laden cheesecloth, bursting balloon casts and constructing sculptures within sculptures, it is a complex method that she has refined to perfection. Beasley is a master of her medium – pushing the limits of porcelain, literally, to breaking point.

Seed 2022-23, a site-specific installation developed for this instalment of the exhibition, saw months of work culminate in a few short smashes. Captured in slow motion by film director Tim Shepard, Beasley’s practice is brought into the digital dimension for the first time, projected across the graveyard of broken sculptures that litters the gallery floor.

Beasley’s floor-based installations each begin with a bed of rough gravel or perlite, which contrast with the smooth surface of porcelain, and evoke stubborn sprouts growing from arid dirt. This is echoed in Fiona Pow’s responsive poem Alchemy, ‘Watch. Green flutes needle through ash blankets, spry and interested. Feeling tendrils up into ether…’, and again in the green glass shoots by Debra Senjushcenko that peek through Seed 2022-23.

In this body of work, Beasley tells a story of humans, nature, and survival. Her porcelain sculptures are at once fragile and enduring – a message of resilience that has never been more relevant to Northern Australia’s natural landscape. With her largest installations yet, Beasley has transformed NCCA into a world of abundance and new life. Walking through Botanically Porcelain might make you feel fragile at first, but you’ll leave stronger – with a newfound connection to the delicate world around you.


Dawn Beasley