“I met a man who told me he loved my ceramic bin. It took him back to his childhood when he and his friend used to tip them over and use them as cricket wickets. I was tempted to tell him about how I watched a man take a shit in one once in an open field.” This excerpt is from a story posted recently on Mechelle Bounpraseuth’s Instagram account (@mechelleb_), along with a picture of one of her ceramic sculptures, a replica rubbish bin. It’s one of those schoolyard aluminium ones with two handles and a sanctimonious ‘Do The Right Thing’ label. Bounpraseuth’s clay version comes complete with dents and grime, and is glazed a sickly green.
Deadpan humour and unflinching honesty are hallmarks of Bounpraseuth’s work. She depicts the detritus of city life: cigarette butts, crushed cans and chip packets; scavenging ibis and wide-eyed pigeons. These objects and tableaux are based on her experiences growing up in southwest Sydney, and each comes with a story. Bounpraseuth describes her work as “a way of processing trauma,” whilst recognising her own tendency to inject humour into even the bleakest experiences of blatant racism and borderline poverty.
Having spent years making zines and illustrations – skilled, hilarious and beautiful works that featured in Space Invaders at the National Gallery of Australia in 2010 – Bounpraseuth began tertiary study in 2014. She studied at Gymea TAFE under Lynda Draper, a champion of experimental approaches to ceramics, who encouraged Bounpraseuth to enrol at the National Art School.
Bounpraseuth is now halfway through a Master of Fine Arts, and the response to her ceramics has been enthusiastic and immediate. She participated in 11 group shows in 2017 including the Hatched: National Graduate Show, and took out the Sculpture prize at the Fisher’s Ghost Art Award, with her winning work acquired by Artbank. With a solo exhibition at Sabbia Gallery and group shows in Sydney and Melbourne on the cards for 2018, Bounpraseuth shows no signs of slowing down.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 83, JAN – MAR, 2018.