Kirsten Coelho works in porcelain creating functional forms and vessels of other- worldly perfection that fuse the formal with the abstract. Her work has been influenced by the history of ceramics, in particular the aging surfaces of nineteenth and early twentieth-century domestic enamel wares – jugs, flask, bowls, beakers – echoes of the pleasures of daily life which she reiterates in inviolate meditations on the history, purity and order of daily rituals and routines.
Having returned to Australia from London in the late 1990s, Coelho’s concern with the formal archetypes of the historical household turned to the nineteenth-century Australian settler and migrant experience. The extraordinary dreams, ambitions and failings of these experiences are referenced in the luscious thick white glazes and pared back simplicity of Coelho’s works, which consider how objects and art shape history and cultural memory.
Coelho’s work has been exhibited widely both in Australia and internationally. Recent solo exhibitions include The Return, at UNSW Galleries (2021), and an ethereal yet monumental installation, Ithaca, displayed at the University of South Australia’s Samstag Museum of Art (2020). In 2019 Coelho was the recipient of an Arts South Australia Fellowship that allowed her to conduct international research on ceramic collections in Italy and Greece, and lead to the development for two new bodies of work in porcelain of which Ithaca was one. Coelho was included in the 2018 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Divided Worlds curated by Erica Green, In the Falling Light, Drill Hall Gallery, Australian National University, Canberra (2015), which toured to Newcastle Art Gallery, New South Wales in the same year. In 2015 Coelho accepted an invitation to undertake a residency at Tweed Regional Gallery, Murwillumbah, which resulted in a solo exhibition at Tweed Regional Gallery in 2016. In 2012 Coelho won the prestigious Sidney Myer Ceramic Award.
In 2020 Wakefield Press, in conjunction with Arts South Australia, published the first major publication on Coelho’s practice which spans thirty years. The book weaves images of her impeccable vessels with painting and a series of essays by author Wendy Walker and a forward by Glenn Barkley.
Kirsten Coelho holds a Master of Visual Art from the University of South Australia. Her work has been exhibited internationally at TEFAF Maastricht (2020), London House of Modernity UK (2020), Taipei Dandgai (2020) Sotheby’s New York: Inspired By Chatsworth (2019); PAD London (2019) and Masterpiece London (2019) and Art Basel Hong Kong (2017).
Coelho’s work is represented in numerous institutional collections including the National Gallery of Australia, Canberra; Art Gallery of Western Australia, Perth; Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Queensland Art Gallery | Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane; Chatsworth House, UK; and the Boymans Van Beuningen Stichting Museum, The Netherlands. She has been the recipient of numerous awards including the City of Hobart Art Prize (2015), the Sidney Myer Ceramic Award (2012) and the Josephine Ulrick Ceramic Award (2005).