Jeff Mincham was born in 1950 in Milang, South Australia and currently lives in the Adelaide Hills, South Australia. For decades Mincham has been influenced by the rich and evocative landscape of the Adelaide Hills in which he lives and works. His studio window looks eastward across deep timbered valleys and forested ranges that provide a dramatic backdrop to some spectacular weather events. The colours, moods, textures and events of this landscape find their way into his work, which expresses the nuanced relationship between the artist and the environment. He builds in clay, a material dug from the earth, to create forms that are simultaneously robust and delicate. Mincham’s ceramics have sensuous, tactile surfaces that are the result of a unique process of patination described by the artist as ‘firing and weathering at the same time’.
Since his first exhibition in 1976 at the Jam Factory in Adelaide, Mincham has worked fulltime as a ceramic artist; teaching, exhibiting and experimenting with ceramic techniques and methodologies. He is represented in over 100 public and private collections in Australia and overseas, including major national, state and regional public collections. In an acknowledgement of Mincham’s outstanding contribution to ceramic art, he became the fifth artist to be celebrated and his work showcased in Object: Australian Centre for Design’s exhibition series Living Treasures: Masters of Australian Craft. ‘I have survived a long journey myself to arrive at a point of strong resolution in my work,’ says Mincham, ‘and I conclude that it is the constant struggle that produces the best results.’
Jeff Mincham worked in and around Goolwa, at the mouth of the Murray River on Lake Alexandrina, to explore the impact of environmental changes on coastal communities. The fragile ecology of the area suffered heavily during the drought. The CSIRO stated that more than 50 wetlands, lakes, river channels and the Coorong were seriously impacted by a combination of low water levels and the presence of acid sulfate soils (ASS). Birdlife, once abundant and a magnet for tourists and birdwatchers alike, dwindled in number. When the rains eventually came, and the community was spared the decision whether or not to introduce saltwater into the freshwater Lake Alexandrina to stop the effects of ASS, the turtles returned but the birds did not.
Mincham contacted the Strathalbyn Field Naturalists, an avid birdwatching community, and his visits to their fieldwork area informed his series of ceramics, based on what had happened to the landscape over a 10-year period. Mincham was told of the enormous transition undertaken by the people living in this fragile coastal area. For them the world was changed, it was wiped out and then reconstructed – communities fell apart, the irrigation closed, farming practices changed, wildlife disappeared. Of particular interest to Mincham was a migratory bird recalled from his boyhood, when he spent many hours as a birdwatcher around the Coorong. The Japanese or Latham’s Snipe (Gallinago hardwickii) travels and nests in two places: the Coorong and Fukushima, site of the nuclear incident in 2011. The community recognised the local–global connection of solastalgia through this migratory bird. They were concerned that the birds may not return but, if so, in what numbers, and would they be radioactive?