‘No human hand could have created this sculpture because no hand, however innocent, can escape the fetters of its style. The object is there, yes, it has been made, yet whichever way you look at it the question remains: who (or should that be what?) did the making? The sculptor who made this object had fifty hands, each attached to a different mind, or no mind at all. The object is sculpted, yes, but with no eyesight colouring the hand. We can talk only of heat and survival.’


Excerpt from ‘Thirteen Ways of Looking at Fire’

Written by John Hughes in response to the work of Tasmanian ceramicist Neil Hoffmann

Published in Yarrobil Ceramics Magazine (issue #1, 2015)



  “There have been creative and philosophical sensibilities before Hoffmann’s that have scoped their dreams and their speculations cosmologically, but Hoffmann is different.  Whereas other cosmologists swirl away into astral infinity, Hoffmann remains on – or in – this earth.  He, too, swirls away – but he spins down through the flux and stream of deep time, down to the earth’s first primal moments.  He puts it better himself than I ever could:  he seeks ‘expressions of earth’s first rumblings for life, of… a time before the substances within the earth found mobility, pre separation [of life from its source], pre independence’.  There, in the energies born of the primordial moment, is to be found the essence – the truth – of all that the vast forces of time itself have bequeathed to us here, now.  And that includes – especially includes – life on earth”


Exert from ‘Politics and Primordial Time – Neil Hoffmann’s Grand and Seamless Aesthetic’  [PDF]

Written by Pete Hay
Ceramics: Art and Perception No.75 2009



“Hoffmann’s working [of] fire is extreme, his kiln, a cauldron in which his work takes on the abstract phenomena of nature’s might.  By choosing ways of working that assimilates a sense of primal creation, Hoffmann turns back the clock to a time of innocence – the products emerging from the ash and mire of his kiln are his atonements for a world gone mad. “


Exert from ‘Working Fire – 3 Tasmanian Wood-firers’

Written by Penny Smith

Ceramic Technical No. 31 2010

“Just as many people investigate their family trees, so Hoffmann investigates and recreates his lineage through rock which, like us, was created in what the physicist George Gamow called the ‘yelm’, the primordial substance from which the elements were formed – that hot soup of neutrons, protons and electrons. Hoffmann perceives his kiln as a time machine “when earth first took leave of itself to become life”. Through this work, Hoffmann alludes to what he sees as an urgent need for change, for re-identification with the place and matter from which we (as part of the universe and web of life) are descended and for which we should have the greatest reverence…

 … forms from Hoffmann’s common Matter series [are] powerful in their monumentality; hymns to the sanctity of nature, its might and steadfastness, evoking a sense of awe. Hoffmann’s hand-as-maker is not discernable, for he has sought to withdraw himself, content to remain an anonymous bystander.”


Exert from ‘Working Fire’
Written by Jo McIntyre
The Journal of Australian Ceramics Vol. 48 / 3, 2009



“… Neil Hoffmann rolls back time and space even further to pre-history and a more speculative event. Hoffmann examines the way natural forces might have created and forged the shape of life forms from parent earth. The sites for this examination are the remaining old growth forest landscapes of Tasmania. These inspirational landscapes layered with the physical remnants of past seasonal times and environmental events offer Hoffmann clues to the formation of life. To Neil Hoffmann these are the wild landscapes, they hint at the primordial and the idea that ‘earth as animal’ is not an unrealistic proposition. Hoffmann treats the first signs of life in these landscapes as an act of becoming, an energy force that separates itself from the earth and takes up form in configurations of the spherical sack. These large works radiate energy from within and while they are wrought of fire and earth suggesting weight, toughness and strength, the artist’s preoccupation with the emergence of life and its frailties are always evident.”


Exert from ‘Landscape Land and Nature’
Written by Vincent McGrath
Pottery in Australia vol. 41 no 1, 2002