Yasmin Smith | TarraWarra Biennale, 2021 | Slow Moving Waters | TarraWarra Museum of Art, Melbourne | curated by Nina Miall


A forensic approach to form and material intimately connects Yasmin Smith’s ceramic practice to an archaeology of place. Emerging from a rigorous research process undertaken on-site, her installation Terroir takes its shape, colour and texture directly from the vineyard of the TarraWarra Estate. Gnarled forms of ceramic grapevines climb the gallery wall, their gradient in tune with the raked vines visible outside in the landscape. Enlisting TarraWarra’s viniculturists’ knowledge of the local hydrology, geology and soil composition, Smith cast grapevine prunings in clay before firing them with a glaze developed from the ashes of their burnt remains. Ribbons of bark form longitudinal impressions in the direction of the plant's growth during the casting process, allowing the glaze to pool in the bark’s fissures and run off its ridges. Removed from the vine, these cast specimens assume the appearance of old bones, animal skeletons or detached limbs. The glaze’s mushroom-brown patina and satin texture is decided by the particular balance of macro- and micro-nutrients which have travelled into the vines via natural means and through human intervention. The unique properties of this site-derived glaze find parallels in the vinicultural concept of terroir, a French term used to describe how the character, colour, texture and flavour of different wines is determined by environmental factors (soil composition, bedrock, climate), and by human activities (agricultural management), which exert a dual influence over the specificity of the yield. Informed by environmental science and archaeological principles, Smith’s process appreciates the ecology of TarraWarra as a system of interconnectedness. Excavating Terroir from the landscape reveals its hidden narratives, the layers of history, geology and culture of this place.

exhibition text by Nina Miall


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