A practicing visual artist for nearly 30 years, Suvira’s previous career spanned 20 years in theatre and the associated performance, choreography, directing, design and administrative aspects. The relationships of choreographed movement with sculpture was the precursor to a visual art career and life circumstances catalysed an interest in clay as an expressive medium.
McDonald was awarded a Diploma in ceramics from Lismore TAFE in 1994 and, building on a degree in Commerce (UNSW) from 1970, was granted candidacy and subsequently awarded a Masters Degree in Visual Art from Southern Cross University (SCU) in 2000. The research focused on wood fired kilns which again required a physicality and performative functioning reminiscent of ritual theatre.
He has been a teacher of ceramics and sculpture for 20 years including sessional work at SCU. Throughout this time he has conducted a ceramics practice with multiple areas of research. The practice has had domestic dinnerware as a focus, although he has also produced landscape interpretations and sculpture formed in low relief and free standing modalities. In recognition of the limitations of ceramics in the public domain he, in this time, has developed strong sculptural statements with other more robust media such as steel, wood and stone often combined with each other and ceramic elements. He has received awards and been acquired into public collections for this work.
The exhibition history running concurrently with the researches has entered numerous domains. McDonald recognised that three dimensional art forms were under-serviced in a curatorial and coordinated sense in the Northern Rivers region and has taken it up to bring artists together in various ways over the last few decades. This has been in any of the media in which he works in an effort to further promote and exhibit three dimensional art. Curating such exhibitions as Table Manners, that had three editions, combining the talents of potters, sculptor, furniture maker, painter, ikebana artist and food stylist. Also Ceramics of Byron Shire, which had two editions including one in Brisbane.
He was invited to Korea as an exhibitor at Gangjin Celadon Festival and his work rests in the collection there. More recently he has finished a long project involving the construction of a traditional anagama, Japanese-style wood fire kiln. Some of the results from this kiln were exhibited at ‘Smoke on the Water’ National Woodfire Conference 2017. His exhibition Vestigial Vessels was a solo showing of collected wood fired works and sculptural forms, held at Makers Gallery Brisbane.
In other sculptural areas he curates the sculpture for the Byron Writers Fest and has initiated the Mullumbimby Sculpture Walk, both ongoing presentations of sculpture of the region, the latter involving a development of the profile of public art in Byron Shire. This initiative has recently received substantial funding support from Arts NSW. Both these projects demonstrate a decision to focus on local presentations of sculpture and strengthen its presence in NSW Northern Rivers. This is augmented by the public presence of his work throughout Byron Shire. He also served on Byron Shire Council’s Public Art Panel for 6 years until 2016.