Antoinette O’Brien’s sculptural works present an ongoing inquiry into personal memory, social structures, politics, and location. Appearing initially as portraits of singular figures, deeper investigation reveals multilayered works that respond to O’Brien’s contemplations on life, world events, and the influence of humanity on the environment. Further inspiration might come from the lives of her fellow school mums, the provocative pose of a friend, or the community dynamics she sees playing out in her town.
Constructed from multiple narratives – a complex web of internal and external worlds, familial relationships, her own mental health, and childhood recollections – the works are supported by constructed landscapes that nod to ancient mythology, dreamlike states, and O’Brien’s interest in the symbolic overlap between geological time scale to understand Earth’s strata and the mining of individual histories to get beyond a person’s surface.
Antoinette O’Brien trained in Visual Arts at the University of Tasmania (2006-2012), majoring in Printmaking and Sculpture, before undertaking further studies in Figurative Ceramics, Dry Glazing and Ceramic Sculpture at the Australian National University, National Art School and Tom Bass Sculpture School respectively. She was the winner of the 2020 Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize, Lismore Regional Art Gallery, recipient of the 2019 Franz Porcelain Design Scholarship in Jingdezhen, China, and Finalist in the 2021 Muswellbrook Art Prize. Currently studying a Diploma in Ceramics, she won the TAFE NSW Outstanding Achievement Award in 2020, and the TAFE NSW Rising Star for Figurative Sculpture in 2018. In 2019 she undertook at studio residency at Garage Studio, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, and her work has been exhibited in group shows along the east coast of Australia, and Indonesia.
2018 to present: Diploma of Ceramics, TAFE NSW, Lismore campus
Ceramics Short Course, TAFE NSW, Lismore campus
part-time): Bachelor of Fine Arts (majoring in printmaking and sculpture), University of Tasmania (degree not conferred because final assignment not submitted)
Also studied under:
Christina Cordova, Australian National University: Figurative Ceramics (2017)
Simone Fazer, National Art School, Sydney: Dry glazing (2015)
Odette Ireland, Tom Bass Sculpture School, Sydney: Ceramic Sculpture (2015)
2020 NSW TAFE (Lismore) exhibition - award for Outstanding Achievement awarded by Madeleine Smith
2020 Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize, awarded by Abdul Abdullah
Antoinette O’Brien’s subjects are tender tough. Just learning to smoke and fight and get dressed without being told how. They are the innovators, influencers and magicians on the streets. But there is something else that brings these sculptures together. Most of these kids sit, squat, lean on a support. Some quotidian piece of street junk like a milk crate. Except look at the glaze, the colour, it has been made significant. As has the folding stool, the wall, the rock…. These are the things that help tether us to our environment. These supports bring structural balance to each sculpture while putting forth a good question: if you are going to ban me from belonging, what will hold me now? - Jaimee Edwards
LISMORE REGIONAL GALLERY - GALLERY 5
7 AUG - 26 SEPT 2021
Image: Louie 2021 ceramic, costume jewellery, fox fur, 48 x 41 x 38 cm
Living in Lismore New South Wales where she runs Basso Studio, multi-disciplinary artist Antoinette O’Brien is currently working in clay, creating a series of busts and full-figure sculptures. Whilst she has always maintained a studio practice, Antoinette has come into her own recently, working towards a diploma in ceramics. The arresting faces of her ceramic forms gaze out with a lifelike intensity, revealing a consideration of painting techniques. High fired and glazed through multiple firings including reduction, oxidation and lustre, the clay is pushed to its limits, resulting in tearing and buckling that speaks to themes of endurance and precarity. With glazes made from scratch and tested extensively, Antoinette approaches her craft with discipline and was recently awarded the Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize by esteemed artist Abdul Abdullah. Antoinette is preparing for a solo exhibition at Lismore Regional Gallery in August this year.
Featured image: Antoinette O’Brien, Sitting Pretty. Ceramic and found object, 47 x 36 x 28cm
The 2020 Hurford Hardwood Portrait Prize is a national portrait prize administered by Lismore Regional Gallery open to any media. 2020 judge Abdul Abdullah, named Antoinette O’Brien as the winner of the $10,000 acquisitive prize for her portrait of Helen Deravenchecko, saying: ‘The combination of ceramic elements in the work drew me into a story about memory, and how moments attach themselves to our experience.’
Abdullah also recognised Michelle Dawson with a highly commendation for her portrait of the late Vera Wasowski