27 October 2023

Human mornay for dinner? Encounter the weird and wonderful at the Northern Illawarra Art Trail

| Dione David
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Ceramic lobster sculpture attacking ceramic human sculptures

Works like The Lobster’s Revenge will be on show for you to see when Kieran Tapsell opens up his home as part of the Northern Illawarra Art Trail. Photo: Kieran Tapsell.

Frankly speaking, Kieran Tapsell got his fill of the serious side of life back when he was a lawyer, which is why the Stanwell Tops ceramicist embraces levity in his craft.

“Art can of course be used to explore serious matters or amplify important messages, but I love art with humour,” he says.

“I believe that’s another important role it can play in people’s lives.”

A wander around his Stanwell Park home, which inadvertently doubles as a gallery, provides ample evidence of this philosophy – and art lovers will have the opportunity to do just that next month when Kieran’s home opens as part of the Northern Illawarra Art Trail.

READ ALSO From weeds to works of art: beauty, conservation and community meet in this Stanwell Park open-air gallery

Adorned with ceramic artworks at every turn, Kieran’s will be one of 12 homes and studios between Helensburgh and Bulli that will open to the public as part of the trail.

He has added several new pieces to his “gallery” (home) ahead of the event, which will showcase the works of 16 local artists in total.

Artworks of a more conventional nature on his property will include a series of solar-powered translucent porcelain table lamps.

But before you see those, you’ll most likely pass a few enormous spider webs constructed from strings of crystals, positioned to catch the light. In them are ceramic spider sculptures – and a few ill-fated hang gliders.

But arguably the concept Kieran is best known for is his ceramic lobsters, which explore a somewhat darkly comedic reality where the tables are turned on the lobster-human relationship.

“I’ve been making my lobsters a long time. At first, I put them in my house on some tuna floats that had washed up, which I’d collected over the years. Then I decided to put one on top of a lobster pot. Then I thought I’d put some people inside it and call it The Lobster’s Revenge,” he says.

“I figure if evolution had gone a different way, lobsters might’ve come out on top of the food chain. There’s a bit of [Cartoonist Gary] Larson in that.

“I’ve always been drawn to humour in art. It’s perhaps why I admire artists like Banksy.”

READ ALSO Bringing joy to generations: Beloved Stanwell Park teacher bids farewell after an incredible career

Kieran, who is also the artist behind the Stanwell Avenue Reserve’s Art in the Park open-air gallery, says between 100 and 200 people a day come through to take a gander at his work when he opens his home for the trail.

This event will be the third in the series so far, which the Northern Illawarra Art Trail committee – a collective of local artists – hopes to continue in future.

New artworks – predominantly ceramics, sculptures and paintings – will be displayed, and some works will be for sale.

Visitors can download the list of artists and studios and a map, see what piques their interest and create their own adventure.

Kieran says Northern Illawarra is rich in talented artists, and the trail provides a window into their worlds.

“Art is an important part of any community, and this provides people with the opportunity to see what our artists do, how they do it and where they do it,” Kieran says.

“And, of course, there’s always the chance of conversation with people.”

The third Northern Illawarra Art Trail takes place on Saturday 18 and Sunday 19 November from 10 am to 3 pm.

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