08 April 2024

Attention to detail

A final collaboration between UniSA alumni Bruce Nuske and the late Khai Liew at Samstag Museum of Art celebrates their shared ideas and different approaches to a pared-back aesthetic.

Bruce Nuske and Khai Liew exhibition for the Samstag Museum of Art
Bruce Nuske with exhibition design by Khai Liew, presented by Samstag Museum of Art, photo: Grant Hancock


Bruce Nuske

Diploma of Design (Ceramics)
Diploma of Teaching

While born in South Australia, UniSA alum Bruce Nuske spent his childhood in Western Australia after his father Rudolph Nuske relocated his family to start a new life on a farm. Tragically Bruce’s father was killed in a road accident only 18 months later, leaving his mother Clytie to raise four boys and tend the farm. Her strength – and creativity – remain a constant source of inspiration for Bruce.

Bruce in his studio
Bruce in his studio

Returning to Adelaide to complete his secondary education at Concordia College, Bruce explored his artistic talent under the guidance of an influential high school teacher who encouraged him to consider art school. At age 20, Bruce enrolled in UniSA's antecedent institution, the South Australian School of Art (SASA) in North Adelaide.

Bruce elected to study under Milton Moon during the celebrated ceramicist’s relatively short tenure at SASA. Rather than being influenced by Moon and the style of others, he sought inspiration from a wide range of sources and continued his lifelong obsession with observing and interpreting the world around him.

Graduating with a Diploma of Design (Ceramics) Bruce’s work attracted attention and he was approached to teach at Norwood Adult Education Centre in Norwood. A Diploma of Teaching and additional studies at UniSA followed, and for the next 46 years, he balanced educating others with exhibiting in predominantly group shows. He prides himself on connecting with most students, encouraging them to explore their own creativity by guiding and questioning their thinking.

Bruce Nuske Cabinet on Stand
In a previous collaboration with Khai Liew in 2009, Bruce was inspired by some discarded shredded documents he found on one of his walks. The shapes were replicated to form the detailed design of a series of ceramic panels to realise the Bruce [cabinet on stand] from the series Collec+tors 2010. Images: Grant Hancock.*

In 2020 he told Margaret Hancock Davis, who was once his student, in an article for JamFactory’s Marmalade, “I was not interested (in) imposing a way of making, rather I was keen to build confidence in their decision making, regardless of their ability, I was always interested in gaining a genuine interaction. I aimed to create a space where a student’s journey was open-ended, one that enabled play and discovery. I enjoyed talking with students, gauging their responses, how they might fit; encouraging them to think for themselves.”

The time dedicated to teaching restricted Bruce’s ability to commit to regular solo shows, however solo shows were presented in Adelaide and Melbourne and his works were acquired for the Art Gallery of South Australia, National Gallery of Victoria, Powerhouse Museum, Art Gallery of Western Australia and Queensland Art Gallery,In 2006 Bruce was invited to show work with Australian Contemporary at COLLECT in London at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Fellow artists included Khai Liew, Julie Blyfield and Prue Venables. Here he gained the attention of private collectors as well as the Duke of Devonshire, who purchased a work for Chatsworth House

In an essay titled Living up to One’s Teapot, written for the current exhibition, Robert Reason, one of Australia’s leading decorative arts authorities, outlines Bruce’s career and the influences on his intricate and highly detailed ceramics.

A delay in opening the exhibition in 2023 due to flooding damage to Samstag Museum enabled Bruce to revisit the content and create additional pieces. In an inspired collaboration with the late Adjunct Professor Khai Liew, teapots and other vessels are displayed within a refined and masterful exhibition concept with wallpaper designs taken from plates created by Bruce.

But why teapots?

Bruce explains that a teapot is the ultimate anthropomorphic object that embraces the senses. The history of tea is also a record of fashion, social customs, and class. It transcends cultures and represents trade and colonialism – “both the good and the not good”.

“A teapot is a metaphor for stopping, pausing, taking time, refreshing, and connecting with yourself and others. It’s a lovingly made object that projects to and connects with the user.

“A teabag has no connection – it’s just tea!

Bruce Nuske, with Khai Liew is at Samstag Museum of Art, North Terrace until 10 May, received a five star review by Arts Hub. Entry is free.

Hear celebrated South Australian ceramicist Bruce Nuske in conversation with Robert Reason on Saturday 4 May, from 3 to 5pm at Samstag Museum of Art.

* Khai Liew, designer, Bruce Nuske, ceramist, Bruce [cabinet on stand], from the series Collec+tors, 2010, cabinet: Norwood, South Australia; tiles: Adelaide, American white oak, porcellaneous stoneware, sgraffito decoration, 130.0 x 212.0 x 50.0 cm; gift through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2012, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide, Courtesy the artist, photo: Grant Hancock.


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