Memory Palaceour exhibition for the Craft Contemporary 2023 program, pairs Carissa Karamarko's embellished still-lifes with Tessy King's textural hand-built vessels to translate significant periods in their lives. 

Where King layers her ceramics with markings taken from her toddler’s early scribblings, Karamarko's paintings draw from her extensive photographic documentation of what's shaped her sense of home in Melbourne.

We spoke to the artists to gather more about their processes behind such layered and gestural works that both abstract and honour the theme. Read it all below!

 

You both coincidently came up with the name ‘Memory Palace’, can you tell us a little more about the significance of this exhibition title? 

Tessy: Yeah, that was a wild coincidence! While I was finishing up firing my pots for the show and thinking back to how I’d developed the surfaces I started a list of ideas for titles to share with Carissa. Memory Palace to me spoke to the process of constructing memories of significant times and experiences. 

Carissa: It was really lovely when we both came to the table with that suggestion as it became a clear choice and meant that each of us was able to bring an uncompromised body of work to the exhibition.

Memory is significant to this body of work in a couple of important ways. The first being that my works explore moments, places and experiences that have cultivated my sense of home in Melbourne. In parallel, there's also quite practical elements of getting to know a city, understanding the transport, knowing how to get places, starting to recognise streets and the unique language of a place. 

"All of these experiences and traces started to add up to create my personal memory palace allowing me to build familiarity and establish a sense of home in a new place,"
— Carissa Karamarko
Karamarko represents her physical sense of place in Melbourne through abstract mark making and pattern building.

 

Both your series of works are informed by memories or significant periods in your life. Has the process of creating this body of work changed how you feel about those particular moments? 

Tessy: Making these pots helped me to reflect on the way my baby changed and was guiding me with their developing movements. It’s easy to miss small moments of ‘progress’ as kids grow. Making this body of work helped me to slow down and absorb and record this time. 

Carissa: A big part of my process is allowing space for the concept to evolve as I’m creating the body of work. Putting my hands to work has always been immensely reflective for me, it somehow clears space in my brain to let stray thoughts filter into ordered internal discussion. There’s something about occupying my hands that allows those pathways to connect.

 

Tessy, your works are strongly inspired by your experiences of early motherhood, and your ceramic vessels are layered in a myriad of intricate drawings and details. What is this process of working with all these layers? Does it happen organically or do you have a vision from the beginning? 

I generally work intuitively with my materials and don’t plan my pots. I do always have a series of reference drawings for patterns/imagery and colours to work with though. For the works in Memory Palace I continued and expanded upon repetitive patterns I had been documenting with earlier works.

"Becoming a mum is the most inspiring transition I’ve ever experienced. It’s given my work a new rhythm as it has done for all aspects of my life. I’m now seeing the world through the eyes of a two year old,"
— Tessy King

After watching my toddlers early attempts at using mark making materials I layered some of the gestural textures and imagery along with various studio glazes and finally lustres and enamels. This process of layering materials definitely lends itself to a random outcome, though I do have some control in my understanding of the materials from so many years of practice. 

 

Carissa, your beautifully vibrant still-life works are housed by your very own frames. How did these come to fruition? Do you feel that this is a part of your practice now that you’ll continue to experiment with? 

I wanted to capture a range of textures and sense memories and felt that the story would be better told through additional materials so I brought in the clay and fabric, and started to investigate working with timber as a way to do that. 

"I wanted this body of work to have its own distinct identity so I brought in materials specific to this concept and these particular stories - storytelling is central to my practice and this investigation of materials cracked that open for me,"
— Carissa Karamarko

There are a lot of hospitality references in this show and so I wanted to represent a commercial kitchen with the use of aluminium, these frames were beautifully constructed by my partner Mikey Ting. I’ve also incorporated a lot of fabric, using upholstery techniques for some of the framing. 

Come into the gallery before 31 October to view the collection in full!

 

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