Nature through a different prism – Merran Esson

Merran Esson is a renowned Australian ceramicist who has been pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the medium of clay for over 40 years. Esson’s ceramic works are influenced by her childhood experiences around Tumbarumba, in the foothills of the Snowy Mountains. It is not the grand landscape of this area that continues to fascinate her but the minutiae of rural life and the contrast this plays with the “urban confines of city life”.

Esson - Merran - Autumn (1)

Merran Esson, Autumn.

Esson explains that inspiration could strike from seeing “seeing a hedgerow of trees, planted to create a shade barrier for stock [which] also divides up the landscape in a way that fights with nature. Water tanks, which are a strong influence in my work, are so necessary for farm survival. An old water tank with its rusted metal and distorted shape often lies discarded in a farm gully or machinery yard, a reminder of the impermanence of material”.

In the 1970s, Esson studied Ceramics at Caulfield Institute of Technology in Melbourne (now Monash University), and on completion moved to London. Travel broadened her understanding of art and opened her eyes to the breadth of contemporary ceramics. Additionally she holds a Master of Art degree from Monash University (2004).


Esson’s work has evolved and transformed over time. Her more contemporary work is influenced by the aerial views of the earth which she first glimpsed flying in gliders with her father. She is inspired by how man creates roads and boundaries in the earth. Her exploration into glazes and kiln firing has meant that “a rich surface has developed” in her work. It is firing gone wrong that often influences Esson’s idea of colour and texture as it forces her to embrace the problem and work with it, rather than against it.

“‘I think patience and instinct play a great role in who succeeds with this material. In ceramics it takes time to develop an understanding of what a particular clay body will do under firing conditions.” Merran Esson

Esson’s ceramic work, Autumn, was awarded Highly Commended in the 2019 Georges River Sculpture Prize:

This work titled ‘Autumn’ is not really about trees, although it has revealed itself to me the abstracted form looks a bit like trees, and it explores the colours of the changing seasons. It is about journeys, both the physical drive down many country roads, but also the growth within us as we proceed in our own lives.  …These rounded forms speak of passion and longing, but are pierced with signs of loss. There is growth and it happens silently.” Merran Esson

The Georges River Art Prize 2019 will be on display until 30 January 2020.


Georges River Art Prize 2019

25 October 2019 – 30 January 2020

Hurstville Museum & Gallery

14 MacMahon Street, Hurstville


Georges River Art Prize Open Day

Join us for a fun day for the whole family. Experience guided tours, art and craft activities and view the Georges River Art Prize 2019.

Saturday 11 January, 2020

Drop in for art and craft activities and exhibit your artwork with prizes to be won!
11.00am – 2.00pm

Guided tours (15 minutes)
Georges River Art Prize 2019

Free event, all welcome!

For more information:



‘About’, Merran Esson, viewed 1 December 2019,

Georges River Art Prize Education Kit, Hurstville Museum & Gallery, p. 53.

Sweet, Sara. ‘Merran Esson’, Artist Profile, viewed 1 December 2019,

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