Susannah Paterson’s Chagall-like work is allegorical and describes universal experiences of the paradoxes of life. Everything she consciously or unconsciously chooses to include is symbolic; pathways, trees, nature, animals, weather, light and dark are
all aspects of the human journey. Grief, loss and rejection sit alongside joy, triumph and breakthrough, finding harmony and balance.
Born in the Scottish Highlands, Susannah Paterson moved to Australia in 1987. Like many artists, she has been through the stages of learning to draw and paint at art school, an ongoing practice, and of course several mentors and teachers have been great influences — including the late Kerrie Lester and Andrew Antoniou. Her own life’s journey as an artist, meditation teacher and psychotherapist has added richness to her paintings and strength to her artist’s voice.
“I’ve listened to thousands of tales of grief, struggle and heartache, and I have also heard and witnessed miraculous recoveries and healing. I guess it is inevitable, therefore, that along with my own story of struggles and breakthrough, other people’s stories somehow get expressed both consciously and unconsciously in every aspect of my work.”
Pottery is very much part of her practice. “I love clay and fire, and the alchemy in the process of creating a bowl or vessel.
It’s sometimes hard to believe that I was completely hopeless and disinterested in chemistry at school. Now I love to learn about the many ways of making, firing and glazing”.
She particularly likes making bowls because of their symbolic nature. “The process of creating one is much like the process of creating a fulfilling life. First you must set an intention about the form you wish to make, then you prepare your material. Once the clay is on the wheel, you must learn how to centre it. Then you carefully create the shape you want. You must be focussed and yet relaxed at the same time. The turning, bisquing, glazing and firing complete the process, and even though you have planned carefully, and followed the prescribed path, all kinds of problems can arise on the way. In the end, there is always an unknown force or element that has a voice, over which we have no control.
“It is a challenge being a painter and a potter, but there is something satisfying about being able to do whichever I’m in the mood for. Painting can be emotionally intense for me, whereas pottery is more meditative and calming (except when it’s not!). In the end, I can’t see myself giving up either of them.”