Madeleine Thornton Smith

I am interested in sustainability and climate justice. With rising temperatures and increasing extreme weather events, inequality is set to worsen worldwide. In Australia we are already experiencing the adverse effects of climate change. As artists we have a small, but loud voice and I believe it’s our duty to advocate for just transitions to renewable energy sources, transport and waste production that don’t exploit the already vulnerable Global South. In my own practice I work slowly, reclaim and fire infrequently, while I investigate issues of hierarchy, inequality and labour. Before I was a ceramicist, I made installation art about the logging of old growth rainforests in the former forestry town Powelltown in Gippsland, where my family owned a wooden cabin. I have long been fascinated by trees and the forest.


These slipcast tree trunks speak of the memories of forests past – Victoria used to be home to some of the largest giant tree forests of Mountain Ash in the world. Casting is linked to memory in that it creates an index, or replica, of the original – much like a film photograph, or souvenir. These blue and white trunks reflect ghosts of trees past, in colours linked to the international history of ceramics. My work is made in response to the news that native logging has now been banned in Victoria, thanks to the advocacy of environmental groups such as the Victorian Forest Alliance. Speaking on the native logging ban, Yuin man Doctor Jack Pascoe, who lives near the Great Otway National Park, says he sees this as an opportunity for greater understanding of First Nations forest practices, stating that "[t]rees are everything. They're old, ancient spirits, and they're so important to helping us read Country, but also relating to Country. They support the plants and animals, and the totems, and they're a really important part of those family groupings of plants that live together on Country, and so certain tree types will support food and medicine species." 1 Trees help keep our planet alive, and collectively we need to continue fighting to protect our precious ecological heritage.

1 Tys Occhiuzzi, Impending Victorian native logging ban leaves many unprepared, 20 December, 2023,


Madeleine Thornton-Smith is a painter and ceramic artist from Melbourne. Madeleine's practice examines the hierarchy that exists between fine art and craft in relation to class and gender, with a particular interest in subverting meaning through remediation. Employing a slow process of accumulation and repetition, she uses slip-casting to bring together commonplace studio material surfaces and textures with archetypal forms from fine art and ceramics - such as vessels, plinths, frames and canvases. This mimetic process raises questions about the status and value of ceramics, art and craft. She is also interested in exploring memory and nostalgia through casting. Madeleine has a particular interest in labour issues, particularly in relation to the visual arts and ceramics industries, and has written and presented for various publications and educational, media, union and industry bodies. Madeleine has undertaken several local and international art residencies and has exhibited in various artist-run, private and publicly funded galleries throughout Melbourne.

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IMAGE > Madeleine Thornton-Smith in her studio. Image courtesy of the artist.