Clay on Country

Ceramics from the Central Desert

2 Mar –
26 May 2024

Clay on Country is a diverse and eclectic survey of works by 32 artists and collectives from the central desert region of the Northern Territory. Works in the exhibition explore ancestral stories, contemporary experiences and settler histories, alongside the joys and challenges of working with clay, including the push and pull tactility of this most wonderful of all art materials.

The exhibition includes works by a diverse range of artists who have produced accomplished, insightful, and contemporary works that reflect the culturally and historically rich and complex region in which they live and work.

Two important ceramic centres of creativity in central Australia include Ernabella Arts at Pukatja, SA established in 1948 and Hermannsburg Potters at Ntaria, NT. Both have well established ceramic studios with artists who continue to create highly sought after works that draw on cultural stories and everyday experiences. For this exhibition, the Hermannsburg Potters created a large new collaborative work with a companion audio visual work by animating a series of painted ceramic tiles. Other artists’ works include remnants and shards of early colonial pottery items, while others have created new works that reference old traditions such as the ubiquitous bush ‘cuppa’ tea. 

Whether as a commentary on the past, or as a statement of concern for the future, artists in the exhibition together draw compelling connections between place, material and culture. 

Clay on Country Ceramics from the Central Desert, curated by Jo Foster and Neridah Stockley and toured by Artback NT, with support of Creative Australia, and Visions of Australia




Selected Works



Installation Images




Yarrenyty Arltere Artists
Merne (food) Plates Art Plates Now 2021
decals on found crockery, 32 plates
190 x 170 cm (installation)
Courtesy of Yarrenyty Arlterre Artists
Photograph: Sara Maiorino

The Cairns Art Gallery acknowledges the Traditional Owners of the land on which we work and live. We pay our respects to Elders past and present. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people should be aware that this website may contain images, names or voices of deceased persons in photographs, film or text.