Water, Earth, Fire, Air unglazed clay, metal, wood
Ocean, River, Sea water (video, 8 minutes)
For many years I have been collecting small snatches of water movement, shot from a fixed, hand held position and sourced from rivers and sea shores across the world. This rough quality footage, captured by a standard definition compact digital camera, reveals the constant and
quintessential element that engages with me throughout my journeys. I live in the desert, but it is water, not earth that has grounded me when I am far from home.
Night Vessel clay, metal, water (HD video, 24 minutes)
The dark of an unlit space becomes the night sky flecked with
stars, or a vastness beyond our understanding through which
particles of matter surge and swirl with no apparent meaning
other than the fact of existence. Then that most compelling of
images, the human face. It seems to have emerged from a frozen
past, at once aged and ageless. As the figure is revealed at threequarter
length, it appears to be holding up a boat, childlike in its
unseeing acceptance of an impossible task – keeping the boat
afloat on the dark sea, in the implacable night. Surely the boat
will sink but, as we stay for the journey, that is not what
A strength of McManus’s imagery is its susceptibility to many
interpretations. The boat can suggest the endeavour and hope
that must accompany life’s journey. In its course, the human
little by little must cede to the seething void, to extinguishment
– the mound of clay particles shed by the figure grow in the
boat like ash in a funerary urn. Its stoic perseverance can
express assent to the terms of life; it can also conjure this
historic moment when we are seeing ever more refugees put to
In Night Vessel the boat endures – the creaking, grinding
persistence of human culture and history. The figure is returned
to ‘the dust’ from whence it came. Such is our individual human
cycle, eclipsed by the greater movements of history and even
greater cycles of the natural world, given dramatic expression in
the final moments of this work.
McManus, who has largely made her home in the dry centre of
Australia since 1981, keeps her artist’s eye on far horizons.
Knowing that there is no sheltering in the desert from what is
happening there, she journeys out.