The Painter

By Madeleine Thornton-Smith

earthenware, glaze & ceramic stain                                    

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The history of mould-making is closely linked to the history of early photography: French philosopher Roland Barthes relates death masks of those recently lost popularised in the late 1800s to the advent of film photography during that period. Both act as an “index” of what we are trying to print - through clay, plaster or light – as with mould-making and analogue photography, indexicality depends on a physical relation between the object photographed/cast and the image/object finally created (Gunning, 2004, p. 40).

By constantly photographing, documenting and casting, Barthes argues we are trying to “cheat death” by creating keepsakes or lockets of past experiences we can carry with us - to not forget that moment that's immediately already passed. A memory of an object is made.

"I like to use ceramic plates as canvases to explore ideas. Each of these plates tells a story of a friend I’ve lost – through rupture, poor mental health or loss.

'The Painter' is about a close friend from art school who took his own life many years ago. He was one of the most beloved, talented students in the university, but he was very troubled. We started an underpainting together which we never finished. This plate is a way of finishing that painting."


Madeleine Thornton-Smith is a painter and ceramic artist from Melbourne. Madeleine's practice examines the hierarchy that exists between fine art and craft in relation to class and gender, with a particular interest in subverting meaning through remediation. Employing a slow process of accumulation and repetition, she uses slip-casting to bring together commonplace studio material surfaces and textures with archetypal forms from fine art and ceramics - such as vessels, plinths, frames and canvases. This mimetic process raises questions about the status and value of ceramics, art and craft. She is also interested in exploring memory and nostalgia through casting.