Titania Henderson

The product of a finely balanced alchemy; working with porcelain today is as much a highwire act as it was in the early eighteenth century, when the secret of making porcelain was first discovered in Europe

Titania Henderson’s practice speaks to the heart of that fragile, delicate and most capricious material – white gold. The fragility of her work is not an accidental result of the material’s inherent nature but reflects, rather, a deliberate, highly personal choice – the use of porcelain instilling her work with deep vulnerability. Henderson’s work teeters on the edge of a sense of warmth and humanity, and of unease.

The chalky, milky whiteness and fine corrugations of the porcelain curls in Together, 2011-12, bring to mind butter curls, wood shavings, or the soft velvetiness of fine cardboard. They are imbued with tactility and familiarity. Yet the delicate piling of these fragile forms creates a sense of tension and disquiet. As Henderson describes them:

These folded, paper-thin forms foster ideas around the injustice within culture. The contrast between the fragility and vulnerability of each piece, and the cohesiveness of their arrangement as a whole, reflects my interest in capturing the idea of ‘the other’.

This ‘other’ may be read in numerous ways, but undoubtedly makes reference to the black form placed carefully amid the white stack, significantly located at the bottom of the pile and placed inside one of the white curls. Its containment speaks of its vulnerability and helplessness. Henderson writes, ‘The pieces each have a translucent quality and I find the final balancing and piling process creates a powerful sense of group containment’.

Henderson’s work is deeply emotional; the tenderness of her forms creates a dialogue between life, nature and artistic expression. Her use of bone china imbues the works with both fragility and robust strength, qualities akin to human nature. The individuality of each form is both deliberate and accidental – a result of fire – yet their beautifully finished edges and finely resolved surfaces speak of a highly skilled perfectionism

Amanda Dunsmore
Curator, International Decorative Art and Antiquities, National Gallery of Victoria