susan flavell artwork

susan flavell

A child went forth
And the first object he looked upon
That object he became.

Walt Whitman

"My work deals with animal and human forms, the real, the hybrid, the fantastic, the monstrous and mythical; and the combination of sculpture and drawing has been an interest of mine for some time. The history of ceramic (and bronze) figurines fits perfectly with my interest in animal/ human forms, and has also allowed me to create forms with endless possibilities for incorporating drawing/mark making onto their surfaces.

Ceramics has a similar alchemy to metal casting. The object that goes into the kiln and the object that comes out are not the same object, colours change, forms shrink. As a sculptor working in the medium of ceramics I embrace the accidents, the chance happenings, the bent, the deformed and the lopsided.

Mold making creates an opportunity to play with repetition and difference. Any number of approaches or changes can be applied to the surface of the cast, colours, textures, mark making, can change the feel of the object. The objects that are cast into the mold are related and individual.

The precision of their fashioning lies in a strategic vagueness that allows their interiors to show dreams of still other species ... these other creatures swim or cling upon a range of surfaces ... that afford or withhold access to the enclosing creatures inner worlds”. Excerpt from Richard Read, Susan Flavell’s Homely but Unheimlich Hybrids, Mark Howlett Foundation #14 Catalogue 2010, pg5.

Unquiet objects.
Freud collected a large number of antiquities, objects, prints and carpets from many different cultures. On his desk and a shelf above that desk he kept a number of these objects. I am interested in objects that have an ‘agency’ of their own, objects that can ‘act’ on others, and how a persons’ collection of objects however dense and obtuse reflects their internal world.

Agency is the effective or instrumental force exerted by a source of energy or action upon a recipient. We have agency as subjects, but it can be exercised not only by individuals but also by social institutions and material objects.

  1. Most objects exert their holding power because the particular moment and circumstance in which they come into a person’s life.
  2. Some are intrinsically evocative / uncanny objects that draw and repel us.
  3. Some belong to childhood and the blurry line between self and objects. Or because they are associated with times of childhood transition.
  4. Objects have power because of their provenance (who may have touched or owned them, they belong to a historical moment)."


Alfred Gells Art and agency- an anthropological theory.
Evocative objects – things we think with.
Ed Sherry Turkle Art’s Agency and Art History. Ed Robin Osborne and Jeremy Tanner

Susan Flavell, 2011


"My work deals mostly with animal and human forms, including the real, the hybrid, the fantastic, the monstrous and mythical.

A large area of my practice uses materials that have a limited lifespan, such as cardboard. The cardboard works are like large three-dimensional drawings, you can see the lines of their construction, including the “mistakes” and the rubbing outs. I also cast in various metals, a more permanent alchemical transformation of one material into another. Recently I have been experimenting with casting cardboard forms into bronze.

Developing the ‘presence’ of a work has always been important for me and is the reason that I focus on the 3D, as it occupies the same space as the viewer. I am interested in creating a sense of ‘agency’ or individual life for the object. Through the manipulation of the strips of cardboard and the adding of the realistic eyes, something changes that brings the materials alive, like Frankenstein’s monster. A combination of compressed energy, humour and sadness.

Identity is impossible to embody, and this impossibility results in an inevitable comedy; but though identity may seem to be a matter of perception and representation, and therefore illusory, it can also be experienced intensely."

Susan Flavell 2009


“Susan Flavell is best known for her sculptural work, especially with hybrid forms that mix the human and the animal. Such work can be read in relation to Deleuzian conceptions of identity – ‘becoming animal’. Theoretical accounts of this sort of identity often privilege a sort of ‘fullness’ or authenticity’, however what interests me about Flavell’s work is that her ‘creatures’ often carry with them an aura of sadness – they seem to me to be as much about failure of every identity to properly represent the subject."

Excerpt by Travis Blair Kelleher