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Exhibition evokes how Sydney’s waterways nurture belonging

A Surry Hills ceramics and pottery instructor has joined forces with a Balmain-based visual artist to create a unique exhibition exploring Sydney’s waterways and the sense of belonging they offer to city and suburban dwellers.

“I wanted to make vessels to accompany Naomi’s oil paintings,” said Susan Hulland who teaches ceramics at the Pottery Shed in Nickson Street, Surry Hills. “My beginning was a blue water pot I made to carry water, a symbol for life. This blue pot pushed me forward in my creative endeavours and reminded me that I belonged and had a purpose as a maker.”

Naomi Downie said her paintings were produced during Covid-19 restrictions in 2020 when she’d found solace by waterways close to her home to observe and sketch daily as a means to find belonging and understanding of her new home environment.

“Despite the upheaval of the times in which they were produced, the works were created as an offering to others, to share the peace and increased mental health I’d found by the riverside’s many changing colours and light.

“My focus was drawn to Snapper Island, on the Parramatta River in Balmain, as a symbol of our shared need to isolate ourselves for safety but also seeing that the islands are still connected to the whole ecosystem.”

“Susan’s ceramics are the perfect complement to my work in colour and composition,” Ms Downie said. “They also convey the experience of water being held, carried and poured as a means of creating comfort and belonging through fellowship, holders of tears and containers of beauty.”

Ms Hulland said she had drawn strength from the collaboration in a challenging period.

“I see the tea cup as a vessel of connection and shared experience. Our exhibition is a celebration of friendship through difficult times.”

Waterways and Belonging opens at Balmainspace Gallery on February 20, 5pm to 7pm with live music and speeches, and runs for three weeks. Curator Robin Hill of has all the details. Opening catered by

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