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Juz Kitson: Contemporary art talk

Juz Kitson has produced stunning and provocative work both here in Australia and in China. Fibre Arts Take Two was lucky enough to chat with her.

Juz’s Friday Feature Artist Interview can be found at the bottom of this page.

While completing her honours at the National Academy of Arts, Juz Kitson’s work was acquired by David Walsh for MONA, the Museum of Old and New Art in Tasmania. From there, the world really was her oyster. Juz spent many years travelling, following the work as a professional artist throughout Indonesia and India and eventually establishing her own studio in Jingdezhen, China, the porcelain capital of the world, in 2012. It was here that Juz could further refine her craft as a sculptor, working alongside artisans and learning techniques that weren’t available to her in Australia. 

Juz is not afraid to push the boundaries. For her, work often involves collecting reclaimed animal pelts, husks and tusks, and strange and exquisite forms from the landscape and manipulating and reinventing them into awe-inspiring art. 

Juz runs popular live workshops and offers intensive internships in Australia. She continues to exhibit extensively in solo and group exhibitions throughout Australia, China, the United Kingdom, Dubai, Singapore and Japan. We spoke to Juz about contemporary art and how she balances work and life.


Academia and culture

Coming from a more practical family, achieving a qualification was important to Juz. “It was a pretty significant thing to go to art school and get that accreditation, and really pursue the academic side, but also having a really strong foundation in studio practice. Having that strong theory basis behind my practice was sort of integral and very important.”

Ultimately, Juz settled into a more holistic view of her studies, “I don’t think it’s the certificate, the actual academic side, but it’s the environment. For me, the benefit came from being surrounded by other creative like-minded peers, and forming networks at such an early foundational period.”


Juz has found herself walking the fine line between commercial art and more experimental pursuits. 

“I always knew that I wanted to be able to survive as an artist. That was always something incredibly important. And I knew that if I had to survive if I wanted to pay my bills and do all those wonderful things that everybody else does, like purchasing a home, that I would need to have the sort of saleable, accessible work that potentially would then fund the larger more experimental curatorial projects or museum projects.” 

Creating such dichotomous art is stimulating for Juz, “That is the joy, the excitement and the constant that keeps me doing what I do.”


Up until recently, Juz has been living between China and Australia. “I lived eight months of the year in China and the rest of the time in Australia.” Despite having a well-established studio in Jingdezhen, China was not initially in her sights. 

“I had never desired to work in China. Prior to that, I had an interest in working in Asia and the customs and culture and had spent a lot of time in Indonesia. But it was as soon as I spent time in Jingdezhen, and I became friends with the locals and formed really strong working relationships with a lot of the Masters there, I began to call it home.”


A significant shift

The pandemic has meant that Juz has had to stay in Australia, away from her Jingdezhen studio. Like all great artists, she has taken adversity as inspiration with her new series. 

The urns she has been creating in recent months are a genuine shift. “The urns were the result of a new direction my work took quite spontaneously over the last 18 months. I’ve worked for 10 years, essentially resisting the plinth and the wheel and anything functional. Really, it was due to COVID and not having access to my studio. All of a sudden, not having a kiln in Australia and being forced into this weird limbo space. I realised that if I want to actually pursue working with porcelain and high-fired ceramic, I need to invest.’”

Taking new directions is always eye-opening for artists, and Juz has been no exception. “I felt like they started to take on a life of their own. And, all of a sudden, it was okay; maybe they’re not urns; they’re almost beings. It’s fascinating how work takes on a life of its own.”

That’s contemporary art

“There’s so many different types of artists,” Juz says when she is asked about her advice to aspiring artists. “There’s the artist who has bursts of energy and so many ideas and constantly bounces between different mediums, different projects. And that’s a wonderful thing. Some people have that kind of personality and can time manage and are able to be a powerhouse in that kind of environment.”

“Personally, I couldn’t do that; I had to pick a medium. And I chose to master that in my way to master that medium. So I think if you are to choose a form, this is just my opinion, to choose a form and really devote time to that, and push it and challenge it. If you’re able to reinvent it, that’s exciting. That’s contemporary art.”


About the artist

At the age of 17, Juz joined the National Academy of Arts to study ceramics, graduating with first-class honours in 2009. 

Juz runs popular live workshops, offers intensive internships, and continues to exhibit extensively in solo and group exhibitions throughout Australia, China, the United Kingdom, Dubai, Singapore and Japan. Some of these exhibitions include the Museum of Contemporary Arts Primavera in 2013, art Dubai 2014, and the Adelaide biennial 2016. Juz has been the finalist in numerous major prizes, including the Sydney Maya fund Australian ceramic award in 2019, the Alice Prize in 2018, and the wind prize in 2017. Juz’s work is held in many public collections, including the gallery of South Australia’s art bank, RMIT University, and private collections in Australia, Germany and the UK.

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