Joel Tonks: Forged by fire, shaped by time

BRAG-Joel-Tonks-Lichen-2018-naked-raku-image-courtesy-of-the-artistInspired by recent art-making expeditions to landmark mountains and along local river systems to document the biological and geological taxonomy of the Central West, Bathurst Regional Art Gallery presents the work of Orange-based multidisciplinary artist, Joel Tonks in Forged by fire, shaped by time.

Tonks is driven by a desire to explore the natural world and dissect its many processes. Relatively new to the ceramic medium, he is facinated by the unexpected results and alchemy-like process of firing and its similarities to natural processes found in nature.

The defining feature of the Orange-Bathurst region is its unique geological composition; an 11 – 13 million year old volcanic flow of basalt, rhyolite, quartz, and other igneous rock types emanating from Mount Canobolas (Gaahnabulla) flowing to Mount Panorama (Wahluu) and beyond.

This lava flow is responsible for creating the regions distinctive quartz veins which hold rich gold seams, as well as the nutrient rich soils, rivers, and high-altitude peaks which sustains many forms of endemic life.

Reference images and textures gathered from the burnt landscape were used as inspiration for a series of earthenware vessels and ‘raku’ experiments, re-fired in a homemade kiln. Firing techniques such as ‘naked raku’ and ‘obvara raku’ were used, which both involve heating the ceramic rapidly in fire to over 900°C.

The red-hot ceramic is then placed in a container full of leaf litter or dunked in a fermented mix, where it burns and reacts with the clay body in unpredictable ways. The resulting artworks are reminicent of an environment frequently reshaped by fire, and the diverse life which emerges.

Joel Tonks is an Australian visual artist currently working between Bathurst NSW and Sydney NSW. Graduating from the University of Wollongong in 2014 with a Bachelor of Creative Arts Honours, his multifaceted practice explores the intersections between science, art and everyday life.

Discovery and empiricism are recurring threads in Tonks’ artworks, whether it be the classification and taxonomy of the natural world, or interaction of virtual and physical worlds.

Joel Tonks: Forged by fire, shaped by time
Foyer Space – Bathurst Regional Art Gallery, 70 – 78 Keppel, Street, Bathurst
Exhibition continues to 11 October 2020
Free entry

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Joel Tonks, Lichen, 2018 (detail) naked raku – image courtesy of the artist