Ebony Russell creates porcelain sculptures which explore the nostalgia and desire imbued in collected objects. Using an experimental construction method to produce sculptures made solely of piping, a technique usually reserved for the cake decorating craft of royal icing, Russell has developed a way of creating forms that seem to defy their own making. In creating each work, Russell incorporates confessional and autobiographical elements into her artworks to recreate her lived experience through a feminised craft.
Ebony Russell’s porcelain sculptures defy traditional notions of the medium, challenging all perceived understandings around working with porcelain. Ornate and baroque, her sculptures and installations are characterised by decadent swirls and curlicues and the finely detailed visual repertoire of piped icing and cake decorating. Presented not just on plinths, but pinned to the wall and suspended slumped in mid-air, Russell’s sculptures contribute to a broader experimental groundswell which is currently revitalising and revivifying the medium of contemporary ceramics.
Executed in a sugary sweet palette, her practice draws on the familiar lexicon of romanticised and kitsch decorative ornaments, imbuing them with a nostalgia which harks back to childhood and a girlish longing for more, more, more. Underlying her work is a questioning of the way in which young girls are socially conditioned to perform their gender and enact a certain type of femininity – a way of being which is defined by exaggerated and over the top frippery and a focus on dreamy, feminine ideals, behaviours and aesthetics. Running parallel to this subtle line of questioning is an inherent understanding of the complex and tangled emotional realities which accompany these performed identities – an awareness of childhood dreams and fairytales that have slipped away – lost or pushed aside by adult realities.
Reminiscent of the ‘My Little Pony’ craze of her youth, Russell presents stained porcelain sculptures in which cute little ponies teeter precariously atop their own mountainous swirling tails. Heavily embellished tiara’s cry golden tears and hide slight cracks and fissures amongst the folds of myriad roses. Although seemingly fragile there is an underlying sense of inner strength and defiance to each of these works. They may appear delicate, but Russell’s works are a feat of technical mastery and will not crumble, break or fall.
Prompting us to consider the childhood dreams and ideals over which we once obsessed, Russell’s works allow us to remember and grieve the childhood dreams we once held, allowing us to release the past in order to concentrate on creating new and more variated understandings of our future selves as women.
Rhianna Walcott, Curator
Ebony Russell is an Australian artist based in Sydney. She is a recent graduate of The National Art School, Sydney, where she completed a Masters of Fine Arts in Ceramics. In 2018, Russell was selected as a finalist in the biannual Sydney Living Museum – Meroogal Women’s Art Prize and was also awarded the International Franz Rising Star Award for excellence in porcelain, which resulted in a residency in Jingdezhen, China in 2019. More recently her work has been selected as a finalist in the 2019 Muswellbrook Art Prize, the 2019 Beautiful Bizarre Art Prize and again as a finalist in the 2019 Franz Rising Star Award. She is currently a featured artist in the Australian Ceramic Journal – Porcelain Edition.