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2015/81/1 Sculpture 'Black Tailed Swamp Wallaby 9', glazed earthenware, designed and made by Peter Cooley, Leura, New South Wales, Australia, 2015. Click to enlarge.

‘Black Tail Swamp Wallaby 9’ by Peter Cooley

Made by Cooley, Peter in Leura, New South Wales, Australia, 2015.

‘Black Tailed Swamp Wallaby 9’ represents ceramic artist, Peter Cooley’s, contribution to the tradition of celebrating fauna as the unique living emblems of the Australian landscape, and which form a collective element that defines Australia and how it is perceived both in this country and overseas. The natural environment as ‘Outback’ has become a default in Australia’s identity - so much so that in lieu of an ancient built environment, David Lowenthal suggests in ‘The past is a foreign Country...


Object No.


Object Statement

Sculpture 'Black Tailed Swamp Wallaby 9', glazed earthenware, designed and made by Peter Cooley, Leura, New South Wales, Australia, 2015

Physical Description

Ceramic sculpture, 'Black Tailed Swamp Wallaby 9', hand-built stylized hollow conical body with vertical slit at back from base to neck, frontal facing head with ears swept back, and forearms represented by negative spaces, polychrome glazed earthenware exterior in black/purple/gold/copper and white, unglazed interior visible through voids in body.


'P Cooley' signed inside rear slit



670 mm


350 mm


430 mm



'Black Tailed Swamp Wallaby 9' was one of the works in Peter Cooley's 'Marsupial II' show at Martin Browne Contemporary, September 2015. Cooley studied at the Brisbane College of Art (1974-76) and City Art Institute, Sydney (1976-79) and was a successful post-modernist painter on canvas until about 2005 after which time he brought his experience as a painter to ceramic sculpture.

On canvas or in clay Peter Cooley has been inspired by the natural landscape. He notes his fascination for wildlife began in his early upbringing in 1960s and 70s Gold Coast Queensland. After a brief period in the Blue Mountains in the mid-1990s, Cooley returned there for the long-term in 2003 after which his focus on birds and marsupials was consolidated in his ceramic work. Initially he focussed on the wildlife of his immediate habitat that he observed on his many walks in the mountains but this evolved later to include more exotic examples from further afield, such as the cassowary. Peter prefers to observe live animals to inform his work rather than images or taxidermy. Whether observing nature from his balcony at home or in zoos and sanctuaries, Cooley says he is 'trying to get the feel of their movement and their idiosyncrasies'.

Cooley's decorating approach and use of majolica glazes since 2012 reflect his adaptation of painterly technique from canvas to ceramic. The use of overglaze Peter feels, allows a more ?painterly' approach and he makes the most of this previous career experience as a painter. The repertoire of 2015's 'Marsupials II' differs from the 2013/14 range in that Cooley is moving increasingly more abstract, abandoning a more realistic colour palette and instead adding discordant metallic glazes and stylised landscape detail. The Museum's choice of 'Black Tailed Swamp Wallaby 9' was in large part due to the large swathes of gold and copper clearly placing it in this time.

In terms of broader historical influences Cooley cites modelling influences from the 18th century Rococo period and most especially Meissen master Johan Kändler. In the specific case of 'Black Tailed Swamp Wallaby 9' Cooley says he was drawing on products from the German Renaissance, with the 'a flamboyance and emotional intensity' of that era. In terms of his earlier panting practice Cooley has also cited early 20th Century German expressionism as a major influence and which seems to flow through to his ceramics with his bold use of thickly-applied and textured glazes.

In terms of colours Cooley notes:
Black is 50% underglaze and 50% glaze plus 2 x coats of clear over the top.
Purple is manganese, majolica for white, added gold and copper metal glazes.

Dr Paul Donnelly, Curator, October, 2015

Personal communication with Paul Donnelly 17 September 2015
Artist Profile, interview with William Sturrock, accessed September 2015
Will Sturrock inteerviews Peter Cooley (seen October 2015)
Art Almanac ?In conversation with Peter Cooley, Melissa Pesa, 29 May 2013
Glenn Barkley, 'Peter Cooley: the Ground Underfoot', Ceramics: Art and Perception, 83: 2011 pp16-17



'Black Tailed Swamp Wallaby 9' was created by Peter Cooley as part of his 'Marsupial II' show at Martin Browne Contemporary, September 2015.


Credit Line

Purchased with funds from the Powerhouse Foundation, 2015

Acquisition Date

18 December 2015

Cite this Object


'Black Tail Swamp Wallaby 9' by Peter Cooley 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 17 June 2019, <>


{{cite web |url= |title='Black Tail Swamp Wallaby 9' by Peter Cooley |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=17 June 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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