Janet Fieldhouse

Material Culture

8 Jun –
1 Sep 2024

Experimentation and innovation are evident in the abstract forms created by Kala Lagaw Ya and Meriam Mer ceramicist, Janet Fieldhouse. Imbued with reflections on culture her works are simple in form yet powerful in presence.

Janet’s new works in this exhibition further explore the subject of Zenadth Kes/Torres Strait Islander cultural charms used traditionally for personal, ceremony and/or religious purposes. As personal expressions they reflect subject matters about love in various guises - to draw in affection, ward off and repel evil spirits, attract certain animals and fishes to the hunt, or encourage plant growth and abundance when placed in gardens. Typically taking on the form and characteristics of the being or thing they have the ability to ‘charm’, and they can differ in size and be large enough to be seen, or small enough to be hidden. They can be made from stone, wood, clay, be carved or painted with striking colours, or left plain. Natural materials such as plant fibre string, shell, seeds, animal bones and feathers emphasise features or functions in these important cultural objects.

However, Janet’s artistic version of these charm figures and her experimentation with a genderless human form - full bodied, faceless, with a bare hint at limbs - continues to positively reframe them as important cultural objects. Each ‘doll’ like form is simply decorated, often featuring a thin woven silhouette that alludes to the represented animal as it sits precariously unattached but balanced on the figure. This combination is a deliberate feature underlying Janet’s desire to find the ‘sweet spot’ in her works.

Janet Fieldhouse’s ceramic practice reflects not only her culture, women’s stories and experiences, but also her artistic vision and innovation. Her combination of buff raku and cool ice ceramics with different firing techniques and natural adornments, repositions her works as uniquely her own.

    – Tina Baum, Curator, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Art, National Gallery of Australia

Artist Showcase

Janet Fieldhouse


This exhibition has been supported through a Cairns RSL Club Artist Fellowship Award


Selected works



Turtle Charm  2023
buff raku trachyte, chocolate brown, raffia
80 x 62 x 30 cm
Courtesy the artist and Vivien Anderson Gallery, Melbourne
Photography: Mick Bell

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