Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design is supported by the New South Wales Government – Arts NSW, and the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. Object also receives support through the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments. Object exhibitions, educational activities, publications and operations are also funded through contributions from foundations, corporations and individuals, and through commercial activities. Object thanks our supporters for their commitment and generosity.
As a collector of handcrafted jewellery for over 20 years, I am a great admirer of the work done by Object to showcase the art created by our craftspeople and designers.
Ofﬁcial Beverage Partner
Donors Frankie Airey Andrew Barron & Steven Pozel Cas Bennetto bernabeifreeman Linda Biancardi Jenny Bonnin Chee Soon & Fitzgerald Sharlene Chin David Clark Pat Corrigan AM Sally Dan-Cuthbert Pamela Easton & Lydia Pearson Ben Edols & Kathy Elliott Stefanie Flaubert & Janos Korban
Jaycen Fletcher Gowrie Galleries Bradford Gorman Kon Gouriotis OAM Ginny & Leslie Green Judi Hausmann Frank Howarth Chris Johnson & Davina Jackson Jane Jose Rosemary & Robert King Janet Laurence Ann Lewis AM Ken Maher Janet Mansﬁeld Sam Meers
Glenn Murcutt AO Louise Nettleton & Michael Dowe Leon Paroissien Margaret Pomeranz John Reid AO & Lynn Reid Peter Reeve Crispin Rice David & Helen Rohr Alan Rose AO Peter Thomas Sue-Anne Wallace Tone Wheeler & Jan O’Connor Two anonymous donations
Foundations and Grant Makers City of Sydney Fred P Archer Charitable Trust (Trust company as trustee) Gordon Darling Foundation Ian Potter Foundation
John T Reid Charitable Trusts Sherman Foundation Sidney Myer Fund Turnbull Foundation
When I ﬁrst visited Object Gallery at St Margarets in Surry Hills, I became totally enthused about the work of the different designers exhibited by Object, and the possibilities for Australian craft and design to both reﬂect and shape our culture. Object is dynamic in its support of our designers, and in doing so makes a signiﬁcant contribution to our cultural landscape. Object is a non-proﬁt organisation and needs our ongoing ﬁnancial support to continue to showcase the best of Australian craft and design through its exhibitions, publications and wonderful education programs. Margaret Pomeranz Ambassador for Object, and host of ABC TV’s At The Movies
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08 ART, CRAFT AND DESIGN IN WOOD: EXAMINING THE ‘BLUR ZONE’
Wood and the crossover between art, craft and design is the focus of an upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York City in 2010. MAD, NY Curator, Lowery Stokes Sims, writes about the exhibition and its intent.
22 THE MAGIC OF WOOD (WHERE SCIENTISTS AND DESIGNERS MEET)
New technologies being developed by Australian scientists are creating opportunities for manipulating wood and, in turn, new potential for the material. Professor Peter Vinden of the University of Melbourne offers an insight into their research and development.
24 WOOD: A SOCIAL COMMENTARY
Design Quarterly’s editor, Alice Blackwood looks at what is it about wood that sees contemporary designers traversing new material territories.
36 CARVING ACROSS THE CONTINENT
Object is collaborating with the Australian Museum to develop and present a major touring exhibition, Menagerie: Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture. Object’s curator, Brian Parkes, looks at the craft of wood carving explored in this major exhibition.
48 A NEW ERA FOR NEW YORK’S MUSEUM OF ARTS AND DESIGN
Adelaide-based curator, Margot Osborne, was a trainee at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts in New York in the 1970s. Last year, she revisited the museum, which is now the Museum of Arts and Design. She reveals her experience, then and now.
PRODUCER – DIGITAL & PUBLICATIONS Joan-Maree Hargreaves EDITORIAL TEAM Stephen Goddard Joan-Maree Hargreaves Brian Parkes Steven Pozel COPY EDITOR Theresa Willsteed ART DIRECTION AND DESIGN Stephen Goddard COVER ILLUSTRATION Stephen Goddard ADVISORS Stephen Bowers Managing Director, JamFactory Contemporary Craft & Design (Adelaide) David Clark Editor, Vogue Living Australia (Sydney) Philip Clarke Director, Objectspace (Auckland) Rhana Devenport Director, Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (New Plymouth) Melanie Egan Head, CRAFT, Harbourfront Centre (Toronto) Allison Gray Assistant Curator, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory (Darwin) David McFadden Chief Curator, Museum of Arts and Design (New York)
THE KEVIN PERKINS
Tina Oldknow Curator, Modern Glass, Corning Museum of Glass (New York)
Australia’s highly regarded writer, Richard Flanagan, creates a very beautiful portrait of Australia’s living treasure, and his friend, furniture maker Kevin Perkins.
Claire Regnault Programmes Developer, TheNewDowse (Wellington)
Kate Rhodes Editor, Artichoke Magazine
PESTS IN THE TOOL SHED
Gareth Williams Curator, Department of Furniture, Textiles and Fashion, Victoria and Albert Museum (London)
New Zealand artists Regan Gentry and Ben Pearce are blazing a path that blurs the line between craft and contemporary art. Matt Blomeley writes.
32 WOOD X TEN
TEN is a group of 10 designers who are united through the shared vision of founder, Chris Jackson. He shares his personal experience with Object.
40 JON GOULDER
Western Australian-based designer Jon Goulder refuses to make objects simply to make objects. Elisha Buttler ﬁnds out why.
52 DEVIANT AND DEVIOUS CERAMICS
New Zealand’s Paul Maseyk makes deviant and devious ceramics. Edward Hanﬂing writes.
38 ON WOOD AND UP WOOD
New Zealand’s innovative furniture and lighting designer, David Trubridge, explores his relationship with wood.
12 OBJECT EYE
Objects of desire and ideas to inspire from across the globe.
Joan-Maree Hargreaves unveils this year’s 18 ﬁnalists from Object’s annual graduate exhibition, Design Now! 2009.
PUBLISHER Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design Director: Steven Pozel Associate Director: Brian Parkes Object supports and promotes contemporary craft and design through exhibitions, education activities, publications and retail activities. Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design 415 Bourke Street Surry Hills NSW Australia 2010 Telephone: +61 2 9361 4555 Facsimile: +61 2 9361 4533 E-mail: email@example.com Website: www.object.com.au ABN 42 002 037 881 SUPPORTERS AND SPONSORS Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design is supported by the Visual Arts and Craft Strategy, an initiative of the Australian, State and Territory Governments. Object is assisted by the New South Wales Government – Arts NSW, and the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body. Object is a non-profit organisation – exhibitions, programming and operations are also funded through contributions from foundations, individuals and corporations, and through commercial activities. Object thanks our supporters, partners and donors for their commitment. We depend on their generosity to continue our mission of supporting and promoting contemporary craft and design.
SUBSCRIPTIONS Milica Barac Telephone: +61 2 9361 4555 firstname.lastname@example.org ADVERTISING Telephone: +61 2 9361 4555 COMMUNICATIONS AND DEVELOPMENT Annalyse McLeod Telephone: +61 2 9361 4555 email@example.com PRINT Printpoint, Brisbane, Australia Telephone: +61 7 3356 6977 Facsimile: +61 7 3352 5433 DISTRIBUTION Australia Specialist bookstores: Selectair Telephone/Facsimile: +61 2 9371 8866 www.selectair.com.au Newsagencies: Network Services Co. Telephone: +61 2 9282 8777 www.networkservicescompany. com.au DISTRIBUTION International New Zealand: Independent Magazine Distributors Ltd, Auckland Telephone: +64 9 527 0500
Object Magazine acknowledges the generous sponsorship of Creative New Zealand Toi Aotearoa.
© Copyright is held by Object Magazine. Reproduction without permission is prohibited. The publisher is not responsible for statements or opinions expressed in Object Magazine, nor do such statements reflect the views of the publisher, its board, or Object Magazine’s Editorial Team. ISSN 1038-1856 Post Print Approved PP242296/00126
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VISIT LEARN READ SHOP THINK BELONG Background image: KorbanFlaubert, Adventure, 2005 Photo: Keith Saunders
Object is gaining momentum by gathering likeminded individuals to build both ﬁnancial support and patronage for the future of Object and, more broadly, design and creativity in Australia. Be a part of the future; part of the Objective Collective. Visit www.object.com.au to donate today.
www.object.com.au Object Gallery: St Margarets 417 Bourke St Surry Hills NSW 2010 Phone: +61 2 9361 4511 Open 11am – 6pm Tues – Sun (Closed Mon) FREE ADMISSION Object Ofﬁce: 415 Bourke Street Surry Hills NSW 2010 Phone: +61 2 9361 4555 Fax: +61 2 9361 4533 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
One of the greatest displays of support for Object recently came from a 10-year-old boy. He reached up to his tiptoes and emptied the entire contents of his wallet into our donation box after attending one of our workshops for the Abundant architecture models exhibition in April. A couple of days later, we had a group of older retiree students visit us from the lifelong learning organisation, The University of the Third Age. They were just as excited to have someone take them through the gallery and talk to them about the processes behind model making and offer some insight into the minds of the architects and craftspeople that made them. What’s important about all this (and that’s not to say that the student’s ﬁnancial contribution wasn’t very much appreciated) is that no matter what age you may be, we all get excited about learning. Over the past 18 months Object has been garnering support and developing its role as a universal place of learning. We’ve established support though trusts and foundations like John T Reid Charitable Trusts, the Ian Potter Foundation, and also enhanced support from Arts NSW. In fact, in 2009 we’ve seen our broadest support ever. Object’s vision is to become a ‘learning centre’ and not only a gallery in the years ahead. We’re on our way there. So far, this support has enabled us to appoint a new dedicated Learning Coordinator, the simply inspired Annette Mauer, and initiate an education and learning program.
ision is ‘ Object’s v a to become entre” “learning c ly and not on the a gallery in d.’ years ahea
We’ve been rolling out these programs to travel along with all of our touring exhibitions across the country. The response to these has been overwhelmingly positive, particularly to the comprehensive educations kits and hands-on workshops, which are helping to transform gallery spaces from being purely places for display to truly interactive environments. A great example of this was in March, when a number of schools visited our touring partners at Bathurst Regional Gallery. Teachers used these workshops to teach their students the craft of basket-weaving as they viewed the Liz Williamson textiles exhibition. We’re expecting a similar response when our other exhibitions make their way across many locations around NSW – from Bega to Dubbo and as far north as the Tweed River – and across the country from Geraldton in WA to Launceston in Tasmania. At the same time, we’ve always encouraged emerging makers and designers who continue to learn through the early stages of their careers and beyond. In this issue we platform 18 of Australia’s up-and-coming design graduates, our ﬁnalists in the Design Now! 2009 exhibition, in a special edition of Emerging starting on page 43. Back in Surry Hills, as I write this, there are a bunch of architects visiting from Melbourne in the gallery and an assembly of primary school students outside waiting to take one of our architectural walking tours around the neighbourhood. I think it’s time we lowered that donation box a little. Steven Pozel
Students from Rose Bay Public School at an Object workshop for Abundant. Photos: Stephen Goddard
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art, craft and design in wood: examining the ‘ blur zone’ WORDS BY LOWERY STOKES SIMS
Wood and the crossover between art, craft and design will be the focus of an upcoming exhibition at the Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) in New York City in 2010. Lowery Stokes Sims, MAD, NY Curator, provides some insight into the exhibition and its intent.
Opposite: Alison Elizabeth Taylor, Bombay Beach [detail], 2008, wood veneer, shellac. Courtesy James Cohan Gallery, New York.
Evidence that the lines between art and craft, art and design, and craft and design have become increasingly blurred abounds in the contemporary art scene. But as these old divides dissipate, their conceptual and theoretical legacies remain resilient. Craft artists focus on materiality and process in their practice even as they strain the bounds of utility and function. Issues of intention, surface/ subject matter tensions and subversion are evoked by art makers even as their practice becomes increasingly focused on materiality and making. And designers increasingly demonstrate conceptual and performance orientations as they design to enliven our experiences with objects in our environments. These issues will be the focus of Working Wood: Art, Craft and Design, an exhibition to be presented at the Museum of Arts and Design in New York City in fall 2010. Since this writer comes to this project from the ‘art’ side, Glenn Adamson’s reframing of the art/craft dilemma1 provides an important guide for her investigations. Take for instance Robert Morris’s Box with the Sound of Its Own Making, a work being considered for this project. Originally conceived in 1961, it consists of a simple, enclosed box from
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which a recording of the sounds of the making of the box are emitted (from a device concealed within the box). While it is emphatically simple both in design and execution, it pretends to have no particular style (in the spirit of Richard Tuttle’s 1994 Lamp Without Style2). Since it was conceived and exhibited within the context of ‘art’, qualities of style and material would be incidental. Instead, the focus would be on the conceptual aspect of the box: the relationship of the auditory experience to the perception of the physical object and the presumptions about its use and accompanying characteristics. And yet the box relates to a style, exemplifying the elemental forms of Minimalist art of the 1960s and ’70s. This moment in twentieth-century art history was set as the beginning of the chronological span for Working Wood (which will survey trends to the present), being the moment when wood re-emerged as a primary material in sculpture after the heyday of welded metal sculpture; and it was also the point when the concept of ‘truth to materials’, professed by early modern sculptors (i.e. Henry Moore, Barbara Hepworth, Alexander Calder), was revisited.
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ART, CRAFT AND DESIGN IN WOOD: EXAMINING THE ‘ BLUR ZONE’
Left to right: Courtney Smith, Vanité, 2000, vanity table, hinges and hooks. Collection of the Artist Pension Trust, New York. Photo: Fausto Fleury Courtney Smith, Lovely Day, 2005, plywood and plastic laminate. Collection of Artist Pension Trust, New York. Photo: Courtney Smith
An interesting crossover between this sculptural trend and woodworking engages notions of gender. As sculptors Richard Serra, Robert Morris and Carl Andre, in particular, respectively sawed,3 logged, and stacked sizeable components of wood4 in various installations and sculptural work, they may be said to have used ‘industrial procedures, or “men’s work”’ as an expression of ‘an alliance or an afﬁliation with working-class culture, which is implicitly gendered male … ’.5 This cultivation of a ‘worker’ persona was literally enacted by Andre, who adopted cover-alls as his usual work and public uniform, thus suggesting a continuity with the working-class focus of woodworking shop classes. These ﬁrst appeared in the nineteenth century as rehabilitative and/or vocational alternatives for the economically challenged male youth (thus breaking with the class associations of lathing and wood turning). Men continued to dominate woodworking even as these techniques migrated into the studio art arena, until the emergence of turners such as Michelle Holzapfel, Merrill Saylan and Robyn Horn in the 1970s. At about the same time sculptor Ursula von Rydingsvard emerged, creating monumental sculptures out
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of milled cedar beams stacked and cut in successive layers. Her bravura technique and sense of scale contradicted stereotyping that associated intimate handmade work with women. Her hands-on approach ﬂirts with notions of ‘craftsmanship’ in contrast to most Minimalist sculptors’ attachment to outside fabrication of their work. ‘Craft’ is frequently evoked in writings on the work of Martin Puryear.6 On the one hand, this is certainly pertinent given his apprenticeship to carpenters in Sierra Leone (where he served in the Peace Corps) and later to the Swedish woodworker James Krenov;7 on the other, Puryear has created his work as a contemporary of the aforementioned Minimalist sculptors. In conversation with John Elderﬁeld on the occasion of the 2008 survey exhibition of his work at New York’s Museum of Modern Art, Puryear afﬁrmed his conviction that process can give rise to ideas, and that this experience is lost when the artist/ sculptor sends work away to be fabricated.8 This, he noted, marked the difference between his approach to his work and that of his Minimalist contemporaries.9 Furthermore, as Robert Hughes reports, Puryear views the ‘art/
craft division in American culture’ as a class issue, that pits ‘thought’ against ‘manual work’10 or, in other words, ‘concept’ against ‘execution’. This leads us to ponder whether both should be considered essential to the best of art, the best of craft and the best of design. We are confronted with some of the same class issues around art and craft that Puryear alludes to when we consider Alison Elizabeth Taylor’s use of marquetry techniques for her paintings. Taylor became interested in the potential of wood-grain contact paper and then wood veneer to tell stories.11 She is as inspired by the ﬁfteenth-century Studiolo from the Ducal Palace in Gubbio (the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City) as by hobbyist interests in marquetry. While she does not hesitate to call into question notions around ‘artistic value’ and ‘class’ in her engagement of this medium, in the end Taylor is attracted to the ‘free’ space that it provides for her to work within and create her narratives that depict ‘ordinary’, ‘real’ Americans.12 As she noted recently: Part of the appeal of this medium is in its erratic ﬂights to the high and low ends of the spectrum. Hierarchical
Martin Puryear, Vessel, 1997–2002, pitch pine, wire mesh and tar. © Martin Puryear, courtesy McKee Gallery, New York.
Martin Puryear, Deadeye, 2002, pine. © Martin Puryear, courtesy McKee Gallery, New York.
schizophrenia in regards to artistic value makes one wonder why these distinctions are so important in the ﬁrst place. Instead of sidestepping class values, I am attempting to call the whole high and low history into question.13 Taylor thus relies on marquetry to not only achieve an interesting tension between surface and subject matter, but also a more objective approach to subjects that could be more theatrical and sentimental in character. Another artist who navigates issues of art and design crossover is sculptor Courtney Smith. Over the past few years Smith has cut and hinged existing furniture pieces (some with historical veneers, literally and ﬁguratively), alluding to anthropomorphic and structural anomalies.14 Another body of work features areas of elaborate curlicue, ﬂoral designs that Smith makes to be carved onto ordinary plan furniture pieces, thus revealing the artiﬁce of decoration by creating a visual contrast or ‘collision’ with the natural grain of the wood. In all this, the original furniture pieces often retain a modicum of their original functions. More recently, however Smith has been creating new works with
intricate forms that are meant to be integrated into the owner’s space and actually used. Smith’s approach to wooden furniture then involves an intricate mélange of craft approaches, design decisions and, not incidentally, recycling and reuse, an issue that has increasingly come to prick the sensibility of all woodworkers in light of a new awareness of the ﬁnite resources that would be available without some conscientious harvesting and reuse of the materials. As these few examples demonstrate, Working Wood: Art, Craft and Design will cut across a broad spectrum of art and object making. It will demonstrate that all artists working in this medium do so in the context of speciﬁc philosophical and conceptual beliefs or traditions. In the ﬁnal analysis, the exhibition will pay homage to this material, which is one of the oldest and most venerable in object making worldwide, while also being the most relevant today. Lowery Stokes Sims is Curator, Museum of Arts and Design, New York City.
Notes 1. Glenn Adamson, Thinking Through Craft, Berg Publishers, Oxford, England, 2007. 2. This work is currently been editioned by A/D Gallery New York City. See http://www. adeditions.com/objects.html. 3. For example, Serra’s 1969 installation, Sawing, at the Pasadena Art Museum. 4. For example Morris’s installation, Untitled, Timbers, in the 1970 survey of his work organised by Marcia Tucker at the Whitney Museum of Art, New York City. 5. Julia Bryan-Wilson, ‘Hard hats and art strikes: Robert Morris in 1970’, Art Bulletin, vol. 89, no. 2, June 2007, p. 334. The meagre female contingent in Minimalism included Tina Spiro and Ann Truitt, who also worked primarily in wood. 6. Writing in 2001, critic Robert Hughes suggested a ‘craft ancestry’ for Puryear’s work: the ‘antique technologies’ of industrialism, ‘folk technologies’ including ‘basketry and cooperage’. See Robert Hughes, ‘Martin Puryear’, http://www.time.com/time/magazine/ article/0,9171,1000284,00.html?iid=chix-sphere. 7. See Robert Storr and Neal Benezra, Martin Puryear, exhibition catalogue, Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago, 2001. 8. Martin Puryear in conversation with John Elderﬁeld, Tuesday 13 November 2007, Museum of Modern Art, New York City. Notes taken by the author. 9. ibid. 10. Robert Hughes, ‘Martin Puryear’. 11. This information on Taylor’s work is based on the author’s conversation with the artist in her studio on 8 December 2008. 12. Alison Elizabeth Taylor, e-mail correspondence with the author, 16 January 2009. 13. ibid. 14. This information on Smith’s work is based on the author’s conversation with the artist in her studio on 3 December 2008.
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In the market for a ﬁnd
Autonomous design Object Rotterdam is a candy store for designophiles – one glance and you want it all. Housed in the industrial LP II, Las Palmas in Rotterdam, this annual fair is a highlight on the international design calendar. Billed as the fair for ‘autonomous design’ and celebrating its 10-year anniversary in February 2009, Object Rotterdam presents a smorgasbord of the latest designs of functional objects by local and international designers. In short, it is where the ﬁne line between art and design is most sharply in focus. The 2009 fair was another stellar installment, attracting over 5,000 visitors to view pieces from the likes of Royal Tichelaar, Thomas Eyck and Aldo Bakker. Design superstar Droog also showcased a special presentation of work from its collection. Supporters of emerging talent, Object Rotterdam includes ‘Project Spaces’ where young designers can present their work. For early-bird knowledge about Object Rotterdam 2010, keep an eye on www.objectrotterdam.com Above: Richard Hutten, Sexy Relaxy, 2002, mirror steel. Photo: Studio Richard Hutten
Losers really are weepers when it comes to the Finders Keepers market. Formerly known as the Hope Street Markets, the bigger and better Finders Keepers market ﬁrst strutted its stuff at its new home in CarriageWorks in Sydney in December 2008. It was such a raving success that founders Sarah Thorton and Brooke Johnston have announced an Autumn/Winter market on Friday and Saturday 15–16 May 2009. A treasure trove of design delights, hunters can expect to ﬁnd all sorts of treats, from shoes to homewares and more. With live music and a bar to boot, the Finders Keepers market is an all-round excellent way to spend a day or two. Passionate about supporting emerging local talent, Thorton and Johnston pour every cent made in stall fees back into their market to ensure that Finders Keepers continues to grow and nurture Australia’s art and design community. www.theﬁnderskeepers.com Above: Finders Keepers market, CarriageWorks, December 2008. Photo: Prue Upton
Promoting fashion that won’t cost the earth If you thought eco-friendly fashion meant shapeless hemp sacks and vegetable-dye stains on your skin, then you really ought to grab yourself a copy of Peppermint magazine. The work of Kelley Sheenan, Peppermint brings a conscience to the fashion-conscious. For Sheenan, starting this magazine was something she just had to do. Driven by her belief that there had to be a better way to look good without contributing to the devastation inﬂicted on Third World producers and the environment, Sheenan tightened the blindfold and stepped off the cliff. Brimming with the latest on eco-savvy fashion and styles, Peppermint is printed on 100 per cent recycled paper and uses vegetable and soy inks (that won’t rub off on your digits). To ﬁnd out where you can purchase a copy, head to www.peppermintmag.com Peppermint Magazine Issue 1 cover
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Chicks on craft Chicks on Speed are not a band, or a group of artists, or a fashion label. But they do write music, produce art and design clothes. Side-stepping classiﬁcation, this trio from Australia, the United States and Germany represent a new model for artistic production. Rather than being deﬁned by what they produce, this bunch are obsessed with process. In March this year, two-thirds of Chicks on Speed – Alex Murray-Leslie and Melissa Logan – hijacked the galleries at Craft Victoria and transformed them into a laboratory of craft development for their exhibition Viva La Craft! Playing with traditional techniques of millinery, screenprinting, patchwork, tapestry and tailoring, Murray-Leslie and Logan embarked on a three-week adventure to deconstruct and redeﬁne established craft practices. The results of their creative sojourn were on display until 24 April 2009 and raised interesting questions about what constitutes contemporary craft and design. To ﬁnd out more about what happened at Viva La Craft! have a peek online at www.craftvic.asn.au Above: Chicks on Speed, Super-suit prototype, 2008. Outcome of collaboration with modul8 & Hangar.
Shh … Secret Squirrel Clothing Born under the shade of a canvas umbrella at Sydney’s Glebe markets, Secret Squirrel Clothing is the love child of award-winning design graduate Bri Cheeseman and business manager Andrew Prince. Designing elegant, relaxed womenswear, this duo excels in creating pieces that effortlessly take you from day to night. Their latest collection, darker than blue, is a nod to old and new-world glamour. Darker than blue is the sixth collection of Secret Squirrel Clothing, and is stocked in over 20 boutiques across Australia and New Zealand. And with the launch of their new new-look website in March 2009, this secret is about as safe as chocolate cake in the ofﬁce fridge. www.secretsquirrelclothing.com.au Above: Designs from the Secret Squirrel Clothing darker than blue range. Photo: Dario Gardiman
seize\collide at Object Gallery Running until 21 June 2009 in Object Gallery’s Project Space, seize\collide is an exploration into the function and uses of visual communication within culturally diverse contexts. Curator Nicole Foreshew presents works by several Australian artists, designers and makers, which are provocative commentaries on identity, culture, visual language and our environment. Participating Australian–Islamic designer Hena Qureshi is concerned with socially responsible design, focusing on visual misrepresentations of culture by the mass public. In her work, Qureshi constructs Arabic scripts that embody symbols and meaning. These scripts seize an opportunity to provoke and challenge our understanding of what is being communicated, often colliding with how we as a society interact with the world around us. Running concurrently with Design Now! in Object’s main gallery, seize\collide is an opportunity to ponder the role of design. Above: Hina Qureshi, Meaning and the written word (detail), 2003 Photomedia.
New fashion school opens in Sydney Sydney’s fashion cred stepped up a notch in March this year with the opening of prestigious Parisian fashion college Esmod. Swinging open its doors in downtown Surry Hills, Esmod Australia is the college’s ﬁrst English-speaking campus (other campuses can be found in Beijing, Dubai and Milan). Esmod Australia opened with a feast of vintage haute couture on display from the Darnell Collection. Comprising over 3,500 pieces of antique and designer dresses, undergarments and accessories, the Darnell Collection is the private collection of curator Charlotte Smith. Esmod was founded in Paris in 1841 and counts among its alumni Thierry Mugler, Jamin Puech, and scores of designers working at Yves Saint Laurent, Paco Rabanne, Givenchy, Diesel, Victoria’s Secret and Benetton. The future looks bright for Sydney’s budding fashion set.
Space-age diagnosis Say the phrase ‘health clinics’ and people might picture ﬂuorescent lights, plastic seats and long waiting periods drinking tea out of Styrofoam cups. They are not where one expects to ﬁnd sleek interiors, futuristic pods and the warm ﬂattering light of an antique chandelier. Welcome Allied Health, a unique clinic in suburban Melbourne that is reshaping how we think about healthcare. Part 2001: A Space Odyssey and part nineteenth-century Victorian elegance, Allied Health is the vision of Melbourne-based ﬁrm Chameleon Architecture, and houses a podiatrist, physiotherapist, dietician and two psychologists. Patients are treated in consultation suites that have a rich nurturing interior of lacquered plywood ﬂoors, walls and ceilings. No longer will visits to a healthcare professional be put off until absolutely necessary. Sore pinky toe? Better get that looked at. Above: Allied Health clinic, Bentleigh, Vic. Photo: Tanja Milbourne
Object Eye compiled by Danielle Hairs, Theresa Willsteed and Matt Blomeley.
www.esmond.com.au Above: Green Feathered Capelette with glass-beaded tassel trim from The Darnell Collection, post World War I. Photo: Sarah Ryan object 58 / 13
New at Pieces of Eight The transition from ﬁne-metal jeweller to object designer may be a daunting prospect for some. Not so for Melbourne-based Nina Ellis, who is taking the leap with panache and style. Her ﬁrst ﬂing with homewares is the Minna Fold Bowl, an anodised aluminium bowl perfect for displaying fruit or for simply admiring on its own. Available in a series of bold colours, each bowl is a landscape of undulating incisions and folds. Reminiscent of a ﬂower in full bloom, you can almost see the gentle ﬂutter of aluminium petals. The bowls are currently available in one standard size. However, future plans involve extending the range to include a variety of sizes as well as limited-edition colours. www.piecesofeight.com.au Introducing the Greenpeace Design Awards 2009 Good posters are memorable. Great posters have the power to unite people and inspire change. The most urgent matter currently affecting the global community is the need to take action on critical environmental issues. Champion of the cause, Greenpeace has opened the ﬂoor to creative minds across the globe to submit designs for a poster that delivers the message ‘Be Part of the Action’. Hosted by Greenpeace Australia Paciﬁc and UniLife Inc., and in association with the University of South Australia, the Greenpeace Design Awards pay tribute to the organisation’s long history of using visual communication to pursue its goal of a green and peaceful future. The winning design may be used in upcoming Greenpeace campaigns in a variety of media such as campaign posters, T-shirts, banners, ﬂyers or newsletters. Submissions for the awards close 15 June 2009, with ﬁnalists being notiﬁed by 15 July 2009. For more information see www.GreenpeaceDesignAwards.org.au
Above: Nina Ellis, minna fold bowl, 2008, anodised aluminium. Photo: Andrew Barcham.
Phil Cuttance’s ethereal cloud city Phil Cuttance says of this work, ‘The cloud city shade’s pattern was inspired by simple pop-up book patterns. This shade is created by cutting and then folding ﬂat shapes to create the volumetric form of a mythical “cloud city”.’ Since graduating in 2002 with honours in Industrial Design from New Zealand’s Massey University, Cuttance has established a unique brand of quirky and quick-witted design objects for production. Lightheartedly describing himself as a ‘design bogan’, Cuttance pays homage to this Australasian social archetype with an impressive variety of works that have been exhibited in Auckland, Sydney and Milan. Having moved to London in early 2009 to further his career, we can expect big things from this talented young Kiwi designer. www.philcuttance.com Phil Cuttance, Cloud City Pendant Shade, 2008, polypropylene (prototype). Photo: courtesy of the maker
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Back to basics Somewhere along the way, the basics became packaged essentials. Drinking water out of a tap has become an oddity. Bottled water is the carbon-footprint-heavy norm (not the water, the bottle). In an effort to reduce plastic-bottle waste in landﬁlls by up to 100 million bottles per year, Kor has developed the 750 ml reﬁllable KOR ONE Hydration Vessel. More than four years of research has gone into the Kor design, which features innovations like a one-handed lid hatch system that allows easy opening and closing, a hinged cap that stays open while you drink and an extra-wide mouth small enough for a sip but big enough to chug or for popping in a few ice cubes. Drinking from a reusable water bottle is a simple but empowering change. It won’t single-handedly reverse global warming, but collectively it can make a difference by changing our water consumption habits. The KOR ONE Hydration Vessel is available in Australia exclusively through Culligan Water. www.culliganwater.com.au Above: KOR ONE Hydration Vessel
Blooming wonderful brooches
If the shoe ﬁts … From a glass slipper to Jimmy Choos, shoes have long been powerful objects of fascination (and desire) in female culture. Now the Fuller Craft Museum in Brockton, Massachusetts, presents the exhibition The Perfect Fit – Shoes Tell Stories, which explores shoes beyond their role as simple footwear, and looks at the many stories they tell and meanings they contain in relation to gender, sexuality, race and class. Here, shoes are represented by imaginative objects of every size, and made from a vast array of media – including tufts of dyed badger hair, milk bottle containers and plastic laundry bottles. The Perfect Fit also celebrates Brockton’s manufacturing history as one-time shoe capital of the world: it was the largest US producer of shoes during the Civil War, and its shoe industry ﬂourished well into the middle of the last century. The 120 objects on display have been made by artists from the US, Canada and Israel over the last six years, and are brought together by independent curator Wendy Tarlow Kaplan, whose family has strong ties to Brockton’s shoe manufacturing industry.
A recent series of work by New Zealand jeweller, Renee Bevan, goes by the boldly self-explanatory title of Blooming Big Brooches. One can conﬁdently claim that Bevan is currently obsessed with ﬂowers, ‘speciﬁcally the rose – its manufactured sentimentality, vast symbolism and its longstanding history in jewellery and adornment’, Bevan says. These brooches, recently exhibited at Inform Contemporary Jewellery in Christchurch, engage in a distinctive new conversation regarding dimension, subject and adornment. SInce her graduation in 2002, Bevan’s work has been featured in a number of important exhibitions over the past few years, culminating in her selection for the international jewellery exhibition, Schmuck 2008. www.informjewellery.co.nz Renee Bevan, Blooming Big Brooches series, 2008, fabric, felt, thread, stainless steel wire, oxidised silver, glue. Photo: courtesy of the maker
The Perfect Fit – Shoes Tell Stories Fuller Craft Museum, 6 June 2009 – 3 January 2010, then touring to other US cities www.fullercraft.org
Left- and right-brained Julie Ryder
Marina Dempster, Ebullient, 2008, mixed media: found shoe, bees wax/ pine resin, glass seed beads, feathers. Photo: Marina Dempster
Intricate patterns of hand-cut leaves meticulously attached to tapa cloth … Silk stained by the natural dyes produced during fruit fermentation and further decorated by hand … Molecular photomicrographs digitally manipulated and printed onto archival paper … Welcome to the world of Julie Ryder, Canberra-based scientist-turned-artist, whose hybrid practice fuses textile design, collage, sculpture, botanical taxonomy and microscopy. For Ryder, material is a playground where she can weave language and story into and onto the textile surface. ‘I am seduced by pattern, colour and form, but ultimately I want to ﬁnd out what lies beneath that.’ Her latest body of work, generate, 2008, pays homage to British naturalist Charles Darwin. Visually stunning and drenched with emotion, these works blend plant material, textiles and glass to portray the work and life of the ‘grandfather of evolution’.
Yoyo Ceramics in London has made one of those brilliant, ‘how come nobody thought of that before?’ objects: the ceramic notepad. It can be used for jotting down short notes, messages, lists and everything else you presently use a non-shiny notebook for. Once the note becomes obsolete, you wipe it off and write the next note with the ceramic notebook’s specially-supplied waxy pencil (Yoyo’s website describes these as ‘most satisfying’ to write with). Since its launch in September last year, this smart jotter’s been snapped up by swish retailers like Hong Kong’s Lane Crawford, received glowing reviews and sold out six to 12 months’ worth of stock in two months. The ceramic notebook is now with a long-established UK distributor, and was launched, along with a larger version, at Birmingham Spring Fair in February this year. Yoyo’s designer and maker, Helen Johannessen, is a trained ceramicist, and set up her business in 2003. Since then, it has grown in product range and reputation and, with its belief in ‘creating things that people want to keep and cherish in their homes for a lifetime’, it’s well worth making a note to see what Yoyo Ceramics does next. yoyoceramics.co.uk Yoyo Ceramics’ ceramic notepad, 2008, the brainchild of Helen Johannessen
Above: Julie Ryder, Re:generate : 1859, 2008, silk, reactive dyes, direct digital print. Photo: Julie Ryder object 58 / 15
Calling all ceramicists and potters … Bookings are now open for the 2009 12th International Ceramics Festival at Aberystwyth Arts Centre on the campus of the University of Wales. This three-day biennial festival is a prestigious international gathering for professional and amateur potters. This year’s highlights include demonstrations and a lecture by US ceramicist, Don Reitz, one of the most important and inﬂuential ceramicists working today; and the maker of ‘haiku in clay’, Shozo Michikawa, will demonstrate the throwing techniques that have made him one of Japan’s leading ceramicists. It promises to be a mid-summer long weekend full of inspiration, technique-sharing and the ﬁring of great new ideas. Yayoi Kusama at the MCA Imagine suffering a mental illness from childhood, which involves (amongst other symptoms) overwhelming polka dot visual hallucinations, and then translating that experience into a lifelong practice as an artist, commencing at the age of ten. And that’s only the start of the story of Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama. Her long career – spanning its beginnings in Japan, her avant-garde years in the US from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, and her return home to Japan in 1973 – is incredible on many levels. Now, Sydney’s Museum of Contemporary Art presents the chance for a wider audience to discover Kusama’s internationally-acclaimed work, in Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years, a major exhibition that spans decades of Kusama’s artistic practice. Kusama describes herself as an ‘obsessive artist’ and, whether in painting, collage, sculpture, installation, ﬁlm or performance and its documentation, her works are ﬁxated on rhythm, pattern and accumulation. Although turning 80 this year, Kusama continues her work, her dedication unabated. ‘I aspire to greater heights,’ she said recently, ‘soaring higher and ever higher.’1 Yayoi Kusama: Mirrored Years Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney, 24 February – 8 June 2009 mca.com.au 1. Natalie Reilly, ‘Rewind 1960 Yayoi Kusama’, Sunday Life magazine, The Sun-Herald, 15 February 2009, p. 30. Portrait of Yayoi Kusama. Photo: courtesy the artist, Yayoi Kusama Studio, Victoria Miro Gallery, London and Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo © the artist
12th International Ceramics Festival, 3–5 July 2009 internationalceramicsfestival.org An example of the work of Shozo Michikawa
Australian Ceramics Triennale The ﬁrst Australian Ceramics Triennale will be held in Sydney in mid-July (conveniently following the International Ceramics Festival, above). This four-day conference brings together local and overseas practitioners, educators, collectors and writers to discuss, debate and exchange ideas. There will also be workshops and demonstrations; and a host of NSW-wide ceramics-focused exhibitions will run throughout July. If you’re visiting Sydney during the Triennale, watch out for Renegade Clay, the Triennale’s special satellite event. And if you’re a collector, Ceramics Direct will be held on the Saturday afternoon of the Conference – it’s your chance to meet the delegates and purchase their work. Australian Ceramics Triennale, 16–20 July 2009 australianceramicstriennale.com Virginia Scotchie, Turquoise Ball Bowl, 2008, stoneware hand-built ceramic. Photo: David Ramsey
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Tayenebe: Tasmanian Aboriginal Women’s Fibrework Tasmanian Aboriginal people have made objects from land and sea materials – including plant ﬁbre, kelp and shells – since time immemorial. Over the past three years, a large group of Tasmanian Aboriginal women have travelled together across the island in a process of cultural retrieval. Their impetus was the desire to reconnect with the cultural craft of Ancestors, and they have also been greatly inspired by 37 Tasmanian Aboriginal woven-twined baskets made during the 1880s, which now survive in museums internationally. ‘Tayenebe’ is a south-eastern Aboriginal word meaning ‘exchange’, and the exhibition, Tayenebe: Tasmanian Aboriginal Women’s Fibrework, is the result of various forms of interaction, including the women’s work to relearn and teach ﬁbre skills. Tayenebe celebrates the reinvigoration of ﬁbre and kelp work that is unique to Tasmania, and explores links and changes across time between media, techniques and form. The works in Tayenebe were made by more than 20 women aged from seven to 87, in intensive ﬁbre workshops held around Tasmania. They are displayed alongside historical pieces and contemporary and historical interpretative material. Tayenebe: Tasmanian Aboriginal Women’s Fibrework Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, 4 July – 29 November 2009, touring nationally in 2010 tmag.tas.gov.au Verna Nichols, Bag, 2008, kelp, plants, echidna quills. Photo: Simon Cuthbert
Isamu Noguchi at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park Isamu Noguchi (1904–1988) was one of the last century’s outstanding sculptors and designers. His imagination and output embraced (amongst other projects) large-scale land art and sculpture, set and costume designs for Martha Graham and Merce Cunningham, and collaborations with designers such as Charles Eames, Paul László and George Nelson on furniture that was among the most inﬂuential of its time (and remains as relevant today). So where better to appreciate Noguchi’s monumental open-air works – such as Thunder Rock, 1981, seven-foot tall, weighing over 15 tonnes and never before seen outside Japan – than in the elegant, timeless landscape of the Yorkshire Sculpture Park? The YSP’s critically acclaimed major exhibition, Isamu Noguchi, is the ﬁrst display in Europe of Noguchi’s work, and includes over 150 sculptures, drawings, and dance and theatre sets. And if this only whets your appetite for the master’s work, next time you’re in New York visit the Noguchi Museum in Queens. Noguchi’s career ranged from being Brancusi’s studio assistant as a very young man, to representing the US at the 1986 Venice Biennale near the end of his life. Isamu Noguchi, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, until 4 May 2009 ysp.co.uk The Noguchi Museum, Long Island City, New York noguchi.org Isamu Noguchi at Yorkshire Sculpture Park. (Foreground) Isamu Noguchi, Helix of the Endless, 1985, granite, and To Darkness, 1965–66, granite. Collection: Isamu Noguchi Foundation and Garden Museum, New York. Photo: Jonty Wilde
Brisbane will be hosting the ﬁrst Textile Art Festival in late May. Makers and lovers of fashion, ﬁbre craft, knitting, creative quilting, crochet and wearable art are invited to this expo and convention at the Brisbane Exhibition Centre. The event encompasses a three-day convention, gala dinner, a workshop program, classes, feature displays and a retail expo of specialty suppliers. And while on the subject of textiles, TAG (Textile Art @ the Guild) is a Melbourne-based forum for established and emerging textile artists, run under the auspices of Victoria’s Embroiderers’ Guild. TAG recently hosted Fabricate 09, an annual exhibition of the work of six contemporary textile artists: Jennifer Gould, Rowland Ricketts III (both USA), Karoliina Arvilommi (Finland), Jenni KemarreMartiniello (Australia), Lucille Crighton (Canada) and Rosie James (UK). Textile Art Festival, 29–31 May 2009 textileart.com.au Fabricate 09, 18 April – 3 May 2009 embroiderersguildvic.org/tag.htm
Biology and design cross-pollinate A new website out of the US – asknature.org – is an online source of inspiration for the international biomimicry community. Biomimicry is a design discipline that seeks sustainable solutions by emulating nature’s time-tested patterns and strategies e.g. studying a leaf to invent a better solar cell. The core idea is that nature, imaginative by necessity, has already solved many of the problems we are still grappling with, such as energy, food production, climate control, non-toxic chemistry, packaging and so on. Architects, designers and innovators can use asknature.org to study approaches to sustainable design. Part search engine, part social network, part portal to a future world, asknature.org is also a free, publicdomain online library of some of nature’s best design ideas.
Donna Marcus’s Vivarium Vivarium is a recent major sculptural commission by Donna Marcus, now in its home in the foyer of a new apartment building in Mackay, Queensland, following the sculpture’s community launch. Marcus’s installation of Vivarium in the foyer’s reﬂecting pool, at the end of March, coincided with an exhibition of her work at Mackay Artspace. Marcus is known for her unique choice of medium – discarded aluminium kitchenware – and Vivarium is no exception, although this time she has worked with old aluminium pot planters and similarly colourful anodised aluminium pieces. Marcus explains this variation on her theme. ‘The [apartment] building has been named “Lanai”, from the Latin word for verandah,’ she says, ‘so in the sculpture for the foyer of this building, I wanted to work with materials drawn from Queensland verandahs.’ Donna Marcus at Artspace Mackay, until 10 May 2009 www.diannetanzergallery.net.au Donna Marcus, Vivarium, 2009, aluminium. Photo: Mark Wareham
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the kevin perkins by richard flanagan WORDS BY RICHARD FLANAGAN
In Tasmania some simply call him the Master, a consequence of both a body of work seen to be peerless and a lifetime of teaching that has inspired many. His reputation reaches far from his island home and his inﬂuence beyond the parameters of the timber furniture with which he made his name. So coveted is his work that American buyers ﬂy by chartered jet to Tasmania simply to meet the maker.
Above: Kevin Perkins photographed by his daughter, Megan Perkins. Opposite: Kevin Perkins, Blackswan, 2007, Huon pine, artists oil. Photo: Megan Perkins
In consequence, he has exhibited rarely and his name – with the exception of collectors and makers – is nowhere as well known as it should be. Yet he is one of the few great artists Tasmania produced in the twentieth century. His work has borne witness to much that is wrong, more that is lost, yet at their ﬁnest, his elegies for a vanishing place and time transcended their own concerns to become objects of an often astonishing beauty. Born in Tasmania in 1945, Kevin Perkins grew up in a netherworld of bush, farm
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and country life that then existed on the fringes of the coastal town of Devonport. His father worked in sawmill where Kevin Perkins ﬁrst learnt about the nature and possibilities of timber, and helping rear the milking cows and Muscovy ducks in the few acres his family worked to augment their income, there began a lifelong joy in, and fascination with, birds and animals. Apprenticed to a joinery shop at 14, conscripted at 20, he spent his early adult years subsequent to his national service teaching building at Hobart Technical College. But the ferment of the times and his own desire were leading him far from a conventional destiny. He had, as he puts it, good hands, but he wanted to learn to put a spirit into things. His spirit. He specialised in sculpture at the Tasmanian School of Art, and the combination of the inﬂuence of sculptor Peter Taylor and a visit to Tasmania by Canadian designer–maker Don McKinley inspired him. He recognised his passions
and abilities would henceforth be best expressed in furniture design–making. By the early 1980s he had a national reputation as a designer–maker. His furniture made of Tasmanian timbers combined an earthy passion with a sophistication of ﬁnish, mastery of detail, and an eye for design that seemed to have drunk in both the natural wonders of his own island home and the grand traditions of modernist art to produce cabinets, chairs and tables at once of great elegance and intense mystery. They spoke passionately of a world that was vanishing as Perkins celebrated it, mourned it, revered it. The sad irony of such masterpieces as his Tiger chest, 1995, with its thylacine patterning achieved by a sawtooth alternation of tiger myrtle sourced from endangered forest in the Tarkine, and Huon pine, another rare rainforest timber, was not lost on Tasmanians. He ruminates on the forest and animals and birds disappearing from the island and how the only surviving testament of
all that was special, ‘of what good things we used to have’ will be ‘what a few whittlers have left’. His career mirrored the tragedy of Tasmania’s forests, the wood chipping of which began in the early 1970s. His work was both an act of love for that natural world that was vanishing and an argument for an entirely different forest industry, based on treating the unique Tasmanian timbers as precious as rare stones. For many years he worked with industry and government agencies in the hope of establishing a designer furniture industry combining a high design sensibility with a selective use of Tasmanian timbers. His vision foundered on successive Tasmanian governments’ embrace of a woodchipping industry widely perceived as corrupt and corrupting. On an island where to speak the truth is to suffer, Kevin Perkins, in the course of a long and illustrious career, has not received a single grant from the Tasmanian government.
Alternating between commissions and teaching furniture design have been major collaborations with architects, beginning with Robert Morris-Nunn on the trailblazing Launceston General Hospital Chapel, 1979, and continuing both with Morris-Nunn, as well as Romaldo Giurgola, for whom Perkins designed and made the furnishings for the Prime Minister’s suite in the new Parliament House, 1985–88 and worked with again, more recently, on the Parramatta Cathedral, 2001–08. When then Prime Minister John Howard banished Perkins’ desk in favour of one used by Robert Menzies, Perkins made headlines calling Howard an aesthetic vandal. Perhaps the power of his pieces – so palpable when seen but hard to apprehend in a photograph of his work – comes from him always working to liberate the possibilities of the wood, rather than battling the material. He constantly seeks, as he puts it, to celebrate ‘the treeness of the wood’.
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THE KEVIN PERKINS BY RICHARD FLANAGAN
Right: Kevin Perkins, Rape, 2008, Huon Pine figure, acrylic on MDF. Text by Richard Flanagan, 2003, ‘The Rape of Tasmania’, The Bulletin, summer issue 2003–04. Photo: Megan Perkins Below: Kevin Perkins, Bench Seat, 2000, quilted Eucalyptus Regnans. Photo: Peter Whyte Kevin Perkins, Tiger Chest (thylacine), 1995, Huon pine, tiger myrtle, purpleheart. Photo: John Farrow
Whether it is the high modernism of his 1990s cabinets, exempliﬁed in his bewitching Cape Barren chest – a work of subtlety and emotional splendour rarely encountered in furniture; the sumptuous minimalism of his quilted eucalypt bench seat, 2000; or his more recent inspired Brancusi-like sculptures of the female form – happy, free works that connect back to the more monumental sculptural work he ﬁrst became celebrated for in the 1970s; unchanging in all his pieces has been a superlative choice of timber; measured composition; and consummate craft made manifest as exquisite detail and impeccable ﬁnish. His works’ abstracted simplicity has always hidden a torrent of emotion tempered and transformed by a subtle artistic instinct. It is perhaps this that grants everything he makes the compressed energy they seem to radiate. His home, which he built in a forested range of the Huon, is a joyful journey through his soul. Boats hang from ceilings, axes his father once used decorate walls, birds ﬂy around rooms,
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an orphaned wombat lies in his lap, skulls and leaves and feathers seem to gravitate toward him and he at the centre marvels at each and everything, astonished even now at the gauze green shimmer at the edge of a peacock feather, the inﬁnite veining revealed by a dried blue gum leaf. This gentle and generous man ﬁnds wonder and glory in all things, and his chairs, tables, cabinets, his sculptures of swans and women, are the myriad transformations of his enchantment. Romaldo Giurgola once remarked that Kevin Perkins could make wood sing. Furniture is much used, sometimes described, and occasionally praised. But how rare it is that it creates a feeling beyond words. Richard Flanagan is an author, historian and ﬁlm director. His latest novel is called Wanting.
the magic of wood (where scientists and designers meet) WORDS BY PROFESSOR PETER VINDEN
Ask an architect or designer about using wood for a building project or furniture or sculpture and, in most cases, there is enormous empathy and enthusiasm for wood as a material. This is even more pertinent today, given global warming and the imperative to be ‘carbon positive’, to use materials that substitute for oil and other non-renewable resources, and to store carbon rather than adding to the fossil fuels that go up in smoke. The statistics on energy use in producing wood products are impressive. For every unit of energy used to produce sawn timber, equivalent concrete products are reported to use six times more energy, steel 354 times and aluminium 1,460 times more energy.
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Studies on product development these days tend to focus on ‘life cycle’: the energy and raw materials used during production, manufacture, product use and disposal, and the waste products generated at each of these stages. Such studies inevitably highlight the environmental merits of wood relative to other materials. Even paper, which has been castigated as lacking environmental credentials, is now being recognised for its impact in civilising society, for its value in being recyclable, biodegradable and sustainable, and for the fact that in landﬁll after over 40 years the carbon in paper is still mostly stored in its original state – the paper is sequestering carbon. Predictions in Europe highlight the potential for plastics manufactured from cellulose. The beneﬁts of manufacturing ethanol from waste wood are also being promoted not just as a substitute for oil, but also as a means of reducing carbon particle emissions – a major cause of health problems in congested cities. Technology has now overcome the problem of utilising lignin (the polymer binding the cellulose ﬁbres in wood) by using a process that converts the lignin into bio-resins before the cellulose is converted to ethanol.
Top to bottom: A single length of timber cut to provide four legs that are softened and then twisted and bent and finished off with a plate glass top. Designed by Professor Lyndon Anderson, Faculty of Design, Swinburne University of Technology.
Eucalyptus obliqua L’Herit, composite material ‘Vintorg’. Microwave processing has opened the internal structure to allow impregnation with bio-resins.
The same architects and designers, however, will also highlight the problems that they may have experienced in using wood, the specialised knowledge that is often needed for successful design in wood and the lack of training that is available in traditionally taught architecture, engineering and design schools. This knowledge includes understanding how dimensional stability, shrinkage and swelling and check formation can be controlled. However, these problems may now be at an end following an Australian discovery at the University of Melbourne that has identiﬁed that if very intensive microwaves are applied to wood for a few seconds, the physical structure of the wood cells can be modiﬁed, making it possible to engineer performance attributes into the ﬁnished product. An array of new processing technologies have been developed based on microwave modiﬁcation that has the potential to revolutionise the way in which timber and wood products are manufactured, crafted and used.
Research has demonstrated that probably all wood species can be modiﬁed using microwave energy. Microwave technology can be used very successfully for the almost instantaneous softening of wood suitable for shaping. Many eucalyptus species are suitable for bending, and in fact Eucalyptus globulus (plantationgrown Tasmanian Blue Gum) is one of the easier species to microwave bend. Microwave technology can then be used to dry the bent pieces in shape very rapidly. At least 23 different applications of the microwave technology have so far been identiﬁed. These include making wood permeable for liquid penetration, and technologies that can render the wood inert to biological attack, where swelling and shrinkage are controlled and the surfaces of the wood activated so that very strong bonds can be formed with surface coatings. Solid wood composite beams can be manufactured (see above) that look like solid timber, but where the wood has in fact been expanded in cross-section with microwaves, ﬂash dried at the same time and then impregnated with special bio-resins that impart
improved durability and dimensional stability as well as strength and creep resistance. When asked how strong wood can be made, the researchers impregnated timber with a metal alloy after microwave modiﬁcation. Designers will be able to specify the strength! The same microwave technology can be used for processing wood chips or plantation logs into pulp. Microwave processing can provide an estimated 40 per cent saving in energy, a 30 per cent saving in the chemicals used and a substantial acceleration of the pulping process. There is also an increase in cellulose yield and therefore improved productivity of the pulping process. Professor Peter Vinden is the Chair of Forest Industries, School of Forest and Ecosystem Science at the University of Melbourne.
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wood: a social commentary WORDS BY ALICE BLACKWOOD
Long the favoured material of the traditional craftsperson, wood is renowned for its malleability, warmth and resonance. Many a skilled hand has hewn a soft curve, a graceful line and a lustrous ﬁnish from the material. What is it about wood that sees contemporary designers traversing new material territories? Alice Blackwood writes.
This page: McBride Charles Ryan architecture+interior design, The LetterBox House, 2009. Photo: John Gollings
In a recent interview on ABC Radio National’s By design program, Astrid Wootton, general manager for the Design Centre of Tasmania, acknowledged that contemporary designers have a plethora of materials from which to choose. So, why then wood? Wootton, who heads Australia’s only museum collection dedicated to contemporary wood design, feels our connection with wood relates to our convict heritage and the ﬁght for survival in the harsh Australian environment. Tasmanian designers in particular, she says, draw on a long history of living off the land and literally ‘making’ their future from it.1 ‘There’s a culture of creating furniture from wood in a very pioneering fashion,’
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she says. How does this translate to modern practices, battling plentiful material markets, meeting consumer demand and keeping in harmony with the environment? Wootton notes that contemporary designers are not necessarily purist in their approach to materials. They are adventurous, ‘loosening up’ in their attitude towards wood, appreciating its ability to combine ‘beautifully’ with other materials. ‘The days of making a piece of wooddesigned furniture purely out of wood have disappeared,’ she says. ‘What we see developing is a culture where there are many new materials and technologies available to designers.’
Doing just this is jeweller Natalia Milosz-Piekarska. Her delicate, almost sculptural work consists of soft, palm-sized wooden pieces, fused with copper, or sometimes silver, enamel or a beadencrusted string. Drawing on the ‘expressive and animated’ qualities of wood, Milosz-Piekarska describes the material as being malleable and forgiving. ‘It allows me to play with shape, colour and texture. There is a tactility, pulse and seductive warmth to it.’ Also drawn to the warmth and rich quality of wood is Jason Wright-St Clair of CINA. Wright-St Clair explores the conventional and contemporary elements of woodwork, using ‘a traditional material with modern production techniques’ to create tablemats, coasters and other products. He laser-cuts the wood,
investigating the intricate levels of detail revealed. ‘These techniques give the product a look of precision that is normally associated with plastic/metal products,’ he says. Not surprisingly, the warmth and vibrancy of the material also strikes a chord with the modern consumer who craves an emotional experience and lasting connection. Documenting current consumer trends, the 2008 David Report identiﬁes this ‘need’ in terms of scent, taste and feeling. ‘We want to search for the unique, playful and exciting, ﬁnd products and brands that are honest and tell a story.’2
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WOOD: A SOCIAL COMMENTARY
Left: Jewellery by Elke Kramer Above: Mobile by Limedrop
Fast enveloped by a design sector inclined to explore mass-producible synthetics, metals and plastics, wood is becoming a symbol of the bespoke and a unique design signature. It conjures the one-off, emotion-infused culture of craft, rather than mass production, something we see in the work of designer–practitioners such as Jon Goulder who, in recent years, has moved his practice towards ‘collectable pieces and lasting designs’. As a building material, timber is renowned for its versatility, strength and longevity. It is celebrated for the grace with which it ages, for the huge variety of species available and the many ways in which it can be treated and ﬁnished.
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The Elisabeth Murdoch Hall at the new Melbourne Recital Centre pays homage to the material, accentuating wood’s adaptability and richness through architectural application. Designed by Ashton Raggatt McDougall (ARM), the recital hall emanates a rich, enveloping warmth that instantly softens its breathtaking scale. Lining the hall in timber, ARM uses the material’s versatility to great effect, routing plywood panels to create the grain that spreads in rivulets around the walls. With sustainability inhabiting much of our consciousness – and conscience – wood is both championed and
Right: Pacific Environments Architects, Yellow Treehouse, 2009.
controversial. Wootton notes that consumers are increasingly aware of a product’s origins, and reluctant to invest in ill-gotten goods. Increasingly we see designers salvaging and reusing ageing wood materials, sourcing it from managed plantations. Finnish furniture producer Artek has taken a highly conceptual approach to sustainability with their 2nd Cycle program. Aiming to raise the stakes of conscious consumption, the company buys old Alvar Aalto wooden stools and puts them back on the market – in doing so they honour the longevity and originality of the iconic items, bringing new life to their ageing patina.
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WOOD: A SOCIAL COMMENTARY
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Left: Molo design studio, softseating, 2006, Kraft paper. Photo: Molo
Right: Ashton Raggatt McDougall, Acoustics: Arup Acoustics, Elisabeth Murdoch Hall at Melbourne Recital Centre, 2008, timber, plywood, seating upholstered in suede. Photo: Peter Ganane Photography Below: Natalia MiloszPiekarska, Beastie, 2008, wood, oxidised copper, enamel, paint. Photo: Natalia Milosz-Piekarska
Easing the pressure of demand on timber and wood are materials such a plywood which, as New Zealand designer Kevin Webby says, has been a revelation of sorts, stretching the functionality, ‘and to some extent the aesthetic’ of wood. Wootton also notes a growing trend with plywood, used to create strong, durable forms while minimising the use of special species. Not to be forgotten are wood by-products such as straw, bamboo and cardboard – and who can ignore the beauty and simplicity of Molo’s cardboard-based soft seating, partitions and lighting? These fascinating products fold shut like a book,
before fanning out into sturdy, lanternlike structures. Wood is indeed a versatile medium. With the right knowledge and skill, it opens a world of possibility. As a material, it is a visible record of our life and existence, connecting with us in a way other materials cannot. Webby sums it up well when he says, ‘It records its use and environment, offering some possibility of knowing its history as well as providing a social commentary’.
Notes 1. All quotes by Wootton in this article are from Alan Saunders (host), ‘Trends – contemporary wood design’ series, in By design, 12 November 2008, ABC Radio National. 2. David Carlson (ed.), David Report: 5 key design trends, issue 10, published by David Report in Sweden, October 2008, pp. 17, 30.
Alice Blackwood is the Editor of Design Quarterly magazine.
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pests in the tool shed WORDS BY MATT BLOMELEY
New Zealand artists are blazing a path that blurs the line between craft and contemporary art. Matt Blomeley writes.
The collegial relationship between material, skill and local identity is something that holds particular gravity in the object-making scene. There is good reason for this, as creative practice would be all the poorer were we limited to makers whose modus operandi is international in scope yet oblivious to the rich vein of potential inherent in local history and materials. This relationship to material is often slightly obsequious in the contemporary arts, yet a small number of New Zealand artists in recent years have managed to successfully blaze a path that blurs the line between craft and
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contemporary art. Whether or not intentional, it would appear that material has reasserted itself as a central factor in our understanding of many arts practitioners, and two ﬁne artists who have a foot in this particular canon are Regan Gentry and Ben Pearce. Based in the Hawkes Bay region of New Zealand, Ben Pearce’s practice is testament to an inherited compulsion for tinkering and making. Pearce has made a name for himself through a consistent stream of exhibitions over the past few years. On exhibit have been a range of unusual sculptural objects that you would not be likely to ﬁnd elsewhere. These objects are, more often than not, comprised of various
timbers that have been crafted into smooth and sinuous forms and then skillfully combined with locally-found objects and occasional small machinery components. Pearce’s ever-expanding and evolving repertoire of works is inspired by childhood and suggestive of mostly harmless cyborg-like beings that have perhaps willed themselves to life by employing the detritus and abandoned things found in a disused shed. In his 2007 window installation at Objectspace in Auckland, titled Mr Moorhouse’s Garden, the artist collated a menagerie of retro toy-inspired sculptural objects. Featuring funnel-esque wooden appendages that resembled early
Top to bottom: Ben Pearce, The Red Trike, 2008, Matai, black walnut, found trike. Photo: Peter Tang Regan Gentry, Chop Chop, 2007, gorse wood. Photo: courtesy of the artist
hearing-aid devices or ‘His Masters Voice’ gramophone speakers, the objects in Mr Moorhouse’s Garden were arranged to advance the notion that they were communicating with one another. Pearce noted that they were ‘solemn and lost, yet in search of each other for cues and dialogue’. Pearce’s upcoming exhibition at Hawkes Bay Museum and Art Gallery in Napier (from 7 March to 17 May, 2009) – Utterance – promises a selection of intriguing new works that expand upon his earlier premise. Regan Gentry is a contemporary ﬁne artist whose range of exhibition projects has investigated the ingenuity, DIY ethos and colonial history of New Zealand.
Gentry’s 2007 series, Of Gorse, Of Course, exhibited at the New Dowse and The Sargeant Gallery, featured an exhaustive selection of works, all of which were fashioned from gorse. Imported to New Zealand during colonial times as a hedge, gorse doggedly spread its way around the country, fast becoming a nationwide pest. Conceived during his four months in Invercargill as a 2006 William Hodges Artist In Residence, Of Gorse, Of Course drew attention to Gentry outside of the regular art channels as much for the variety of objects on display as for the artisan skills displayed by the maker.
in particular with the Gorse series, which communicates the particular mannerisms and gung-ho nature of the antipodean lifestyle. Other recent works by Gentry have included several major public sculpture commissions as well as a 2008 exhibition for the Sargeant Gallery in Wanganui – Near Nowhere, Near Impossible – developed while he was 2007 Tylee Cottage artist in residence. Matt Blomeley is the Programme Coordinator at Objectspace, New Zealand.
There is a vein of dry wit running through all of Gentry’s exhibitions,
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WOOD x TEN WORDS BY CHRIS JACKSON
Above: Nina Tolstrup/TEN/ twentytwentyone/Crafts Council, Bird Feeder, 2008. Photo: Héctor Serrano Right: Carl Clerkin/TEN/ twentytwentyone/Crafts Council, Doorstop, 2008. Photo: Héctor Serrano
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TEN is a group of 10 designers who are united through the shared vision of founder, Chris Jackson. The TEN designers collaborate once a year to create products that reﬂect the TEN ethos, that is, to take a responsible approach to design that offers a timely antidote to society’s high levels of consumption and throwaway culture. WOOD is their latest project on sustainable and ethical design. Chris Jackson shares his experience with Object.
Left to right: Sam Johnson/ TEN/twentytwentyone/Crafts Council, Dumper, 2008. Photo: Héctor Serrano
Gitta Gschwendtner/TEN/ twentytwentyone/Crafts Council, Wedge Car, 2008. Photo: Héctor Serrano
Tomoko Azumi/TEN/ twentytwentyone/Crafts Council, Transport Lamp, 2008. Photo: Héctor Serrano
Michael Marriott/TEN/ twentytwentyone/Crafts Council, Coathook, 2008. Photo: Héctor Serrano
In 2006, when I ﬁrst sat down with nine other designers in the studio of Tomoko Azumi to discuss a project idea that I had in mind, I was focused on a single exhibition at 100% Design in London. Little did I know that nearly four years after I had conceived of the project through a combination of travel (a two-week holiday in Goa, India) and frustration (the insincerity of sustainable design initiatives at this time) that I would be writing about the project’s latest incarnation, WOOD. Ten was the 2006 project, and it invited ten London-based designers to give their perspectives on the subject of ‘Sustainable design’. The collective were given a budget of £10 (sterling) and a radius of ten kilometres from their studios to ﬁnd materials to produce objects. The designers included Michael Marriott, Tomoko Azumi, Gitta Gschwendtner and
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WOOD X TEN
Above: Héctor Serrano/TEN/ twentytwentyone/Crafts Council, Do not lose me, 2008. Photo: Héctor Serrano
Héctor Serrano, and the objects that were produced illustrated ten varied approaches to sustainable design that were ripe with humour and intelligence. Ten won two awards that year, including ‘Best Contribution’, and was well received by designers and members of the public alike. We achieved a lot on a miniscule budget, and our success meant that we received a free stand for the following year. At this point I left England on a year-long trip with my wife, eventually landing where I currently live and work, in Wellington, New Zealand. In my absence the reigns of the project were taken over by the ten designers, but particularly driven by Nina Tolstrup and Gitta Gschwendtner. In 2007, ‘Ten Again’ asked designers to ﬁnd, create or curate ten objects related to sustainability.
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In 2008, WOOD was the logical development of two projects that had been concerned with concept and content, over any market-driven concerns. After the success of the previous two years, we gained a retail partner in the form of TwentyTwentyOne, with funding from the Crafts Council. The aim of WOOD was to utilise a material that was ecologically sound, and to produce a range of objects for the home, to be distributed and sold by TwentyTwentyOne, and manufactured by an ethical toy manufacturer in the south of England. Initially a promising and exciting project, the project was hampered by various problems with manufacturers and materials. The idea of local manufacture and sourcing of products is a noble one, but many UK-based manufacturers appear
Left to right: Chris Jackson/ TEN/twentytwentyone/Crafts Council, Writers Blok, 2008. Photo: Héctor Serrano Onkar Singh Kular/TEN/ twentytwentyone/Crafts Council, A4 Wood, 2008. Photo: Héctor Serrano Stephen Bretland/TEN/ twentytwentyone/Crafts Council, Trestle candleholder, 2008. Photo: Héctor Serrano
wary or blatantly uninterested in supporting projects that ask for low-volume batch manufacture, and many do not hold full FSC certiﬁcation. Our problems continued when, four weeks before the exhibition, the manufacturer that we had originally partnered with pulled out of the project. The designers (including myself, on a three-week holiday in the UK) were subsequently left to produce their own prototypes in time for the show. Many of the designs are responses to the workshop capabilities of the original manufacturer, some relate to ‘toys’ in their aesthetic and construction, whilst others investigate ideas of extended use and recycling. A common theme throughout the collection is the celebration of wood as a natural, sustainable material.
To design ten products that hold together as a collection, have sufﬁciently personality to be attractive to buyers, can sit well in a retail environment, and be produced at a reasonable price in the UK appears to be an impossible conundrum in 2009, but three out of four isn’t bad and we will be launching the collection through a German manufacturer later in the year. We are currently in the process of ﬁnding funding for Ten 2009, which will (hopefully) see the Ten project working with a digital manufacturing partner and returning to a more conceptual framework. Maybe only digital ideas are truly sustainable! WOOD will tour to Oriel Myrddin Gallery, Carmarthen, Wales, UK from 11 July – 29 August 2009.
Chris Jackson is founder and one of the TEN Designers. He conceived, curated and organised the ﬁrst awardwinning Ten Project in 2006. Chris is also Senior Tutor in Industrial Design at Massey University (NZ). He was recently awarded second place in the Vibe Furniture ‘store-it’ design competition, run from Sydney, and one of his most recent works was chosen to be shown at ICFF studio in New York in May 2009. www.northwards-design.co.uk
TEN is: Tomoko Azumi Stephen Bretland Carl Clerkin Gitta Gschwendtner Chris Jackson Sam Johnson Michael Marriott Héctor Serrano Onkar Singh Kular Nina Tolstrup
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carving across the continent WORDS BY BRIAN PARKES
Object is collaborating with the Australian Museum to develop and present a major touring exhibition, Menagerie: Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture.
Menagerie will present innovative contemporary sculpture by 33 Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists with a speciﬁc focus on representations of animals. The exhibition highlights the diverse thinking and making processes of the artists, and draws attention to the cultural and artistic signiﬁcance of chosen materials.
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One material that features very prominently is wood. A range of woodworking techniques and types of wood are represented through the work of more than a dozen artists from places as diverse as the Central Desert, Arnhem Land, the Tiwi Islands, western New South Wales, the Kimberley and Far North Queensland. These contemporary artists use chainsaws, grinders, axes, knives and sanders to extract the forms from solid wood. They also draw on rich pools of cultural knowledge, such as the signiﬁcance of particular environments, the nature and power of certain materials
and, in some cases, a variety of traditional woodworking techniques. For many of these artists this knowledge informs both the how (processes of material gathering and making) and the what (form or narrative) of the work. In the tropical regions of East Arnhem Land and Far North Queensland, milkwood is the preferred carving material (it is abundant and easy to carve), while artists in the Central Desert contend with much denser wood from the roots of Red River gum and mulga wood.
Above: Patrick Freddy Puruntatameri collecting ironwood near Milikapiti, Melville Island, NT. Photo: Nicole Foreshew Right: Patrick Freddy Puruntatameri, carved ironwood sculpture in progress. Photo: Brian Parkes
An example of the cultural or spiritual signiﬁcance of materials is evidenced in the work of Tiwi artists such as Patrick Freddy Puruntatameri. Woodcarving has been an important part of Tiwi culture for millennia, particularly in relation to the production of poles for the important Pukumani mortuary ceremony. Works for the general public, such as the carved owls by Puruntatameri featured in Menagerie, are made from ironwood (as hard to carve as the name suggests), while wood from the bloodwood tree is used only to carve ceremonial objects.
Menagerie: Contemporary Indigenous Sculpture is being co-curated by Nicole Foreshew and Brian Parkes. It will be shown across two venues in Sydney – Object Galley and the Australian Museum (from 5 September to 15 November 2009) – before touring nationally.
Brian Parkes is Associate Director at Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design.
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New Zealand’s innovative furniture and lighting designer, David Trubridge, explores his relationship with wood.
on wood … WORDS BY DAVID TRUBRIDGE
You could say that wood has been one of the most important things in my life. Through what it offered, I am what I am now. For 35 years I have worked it, thought about it and designed for it. It is the most wonderful material and I am eternally grateful for the riches it has taught me. I remember clearly one early deﬁning moment. I was starting to make some wooden bowls and furniture while at the same time working part time as a forester on a small estate in northern England. The old Geordie, with whom I worked, was aware I needed timber and said he knew of a fallen oak tree that should be ‘well seasoned’. One weekend we borrowed a farmer’s tractor and trailer and drove to the estate’s broadleaf woodlands. When he showed me the trunk I stared aghast at a mossy lump sprouting fungus and ferns. At the sawmill we maneuvered this piece of the forest ﬂoor onto an old rack saw bench,
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and wound the handle. As the trunk rolled through the giant, unguarded, spinning blade it peeled into two halves and revealed the rich, perfectly preserved grain inside, ﬁlling the shed with oily oak perfume. I buried my nose in the shavings and traced the patterns of medulla rays with my ﬁnger. This was the acute point of connection between the forests and nature that I loved, and the furniture that I was starting to make. And I think it begins to explain the way in which every culture uses and values wood. It is a living material. It is not a mélange of processed chemicals squirted out, at extreme temperature, into a man-made mould. It has a life of its own, growing as light, soil and rainfall direct. Its life structure has evolved over millions of years in the ﬁnely tuned, mutually interdependent forest ecosystem. In using it we bring some of that quality of the natural world into our homes. You can lie in bed, gazing dreamily at the panelled ceiling, seeing the knot of a branch broken off in some far distant storm, or fantasise patterns of
whirling mythical creatures, embedded from the beginnings of time. Wood has no class distinctions. It can be worked by the ﬁnest craftsmanship into articles of extreme beauty and value that will be prized for generations. Or it can be roughly hewn into fences and packing crates. You can build bridges with it, or toothpicks. Throughout my life I have continued to make, and later design, furniture and lighting out of wood, because of these qualities and because it is what I know intimately. I have explored every way of working it, from early massive tables to the lightest of skin structures. The care of the craftsman has taught me to respect it and use it to the utmost. I ﬁnd it painful to discard and instinctively will spend far more time than it is worth trying to use every piece to its maximum. This seems a common trait amongst woodworkers. My use of wood has also recently earned me the label of an
and up wood. eco-designer in Europe. This is not because I have sought it or used the term myself, but I think because there is a perception that wood is itself a natural, hence ‘eco’ material. Is this valid?
feelings, but if we are to have any hope of combating the very serious threat of global warming and over-consumption, then this is what we must do. And we must do it to wood.
I will never claim any material is ‘eco’, because I think it is a word that has lost all currency thanks to green washing. It has been used indiscriminately to justify consumer business as usual, claiming a product to be ‘eco’ because of some minor bonus, despite every other conveniently ignored, harmful quality. I have no illusions that anything we produce, in wood or any other material, can be truly sustainable. So we just try to do the best we can.
It is not enough to say that wood is an ‘eco-material’ just because it is natural, however we might aesthetically prefer its qualities. It is the designer’s duty to do a rigorous life-cycle analysis of all materials available, and choose that which has the least negative impact on the environment. Then you can say, with veriﬁable ﬁgures to back you up, that the material you have chosen is the best. My business is doing this now.
We are in a time of immense upheaval, when everything in the developed world that has been taken for granted, is now being questioned and re-evaluated. Many of our choices are based on aesthetics that have evolved over centuries, and are remarkably similar across cultures. It is very hard to go against these deeply-held
Under these terms I suspect it may turn out that wood is more detrimental than plastic, once you have accounted for all the oil used to plant, fell, extract and process the timber, and ship it to our workshop. Then there is the waste that cannot be reused, the ﬁnishes and synthetic glues, and ﬁnally the fact that most of the carbon stored in the wood will revert to the atmosphere fairly soon. You can’t recycle most wood off-cuts.
In comparison, oil-based plastic, once formed can, in theory (we are not quite there yet), with all its waste, be used forever! This could be where we have to adjust our aesthetics and emotional choices. But then how do we account for the spiritually nourishing aspect of wood, or the important connection it provides with nature in a world where nature is abused and taken for granted? It’s a hard equation, but I expect large-scale manufacturing in wood to become increasingly untenable as regulations require greater restrictions on carbon output, and precious forests can no longer be squandered; while small-scale craft production will increase, where a few, carefully selected trees are processed and used locally, like my Northumbrian oak. David Trubridge is a New Zealand furniture and lighting designer.
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jon goulder WORDS BY ELISHA BUTTLER
Two small things about Jon Goulder: He refuses to make objects simply to make objects. He left the comfort and prestige of the Sydney design scene to relocate to the cultural wilds of Western Australia.
This page: Jon Goulder and Malcolm Harris, Wesfarmers Reception Commission (detail), 2008, hand-carved Australian oak. Photo: Adrian Lambert Opposite: Jon Goulder and Malcolm Harris, Wesfarmers Reception Commission, 2008, hand-carved Australian oak. Photo: Adrian Lambert
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Those are two small reasons why Jon Goulder is not your ordinary Australian furniture designer. This graduate of the Canberra School of Art via a trades apprenticeship in upholstery and furniture-making takes a more altruistic perspective on making and the realm of high-end craft and design. He may have achieved a major national and international proﬁle due to his renowned, original pieces ﬁnding homes in prestigious showrooms throughout Europe and the United States. He may have work acquired by the likes of Sydney’s Powerhouse Museum and the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery, and have a houseful of awards, including winner of the inaugural Bombay Sapphire Design Discovery Award. Yet Jon Goulder remains devoted to the process and craft of making unique, innovative and beautiful furniture.
‘I am not bound by the constraints of industrial process,’ Goulder says. While his distinctly recognisable works such as the Leda Seat, 2003, Stak Stools, 2000, and Calypso Lounge, 2008 are (re)produced and distributed through Living Edge, they retain an uncompromising quality and the ﬁnely-tuned, reﬁned hand of this astute maker is always evident. ‘I’m proud of my making ability; when making, I always aim for something which inspires love of ownership. ‘For me, it is not about making something new so much as personal growth of my craft. My work demonstrates the sum of my knowledge in design and making over the years, as well as in a particular point in time.’ It is this balance of zeitgeist-territory design aesthetics and a genuine commitment to the handmade that sets Goulder apart in the Australian marketplace, and it is a balance that has been pivotal in shaping his international pedigree. Goulder is skilled in the traditional sense of the word – and it is skill and knowledge honed through a varied and unpretentious history
combining ﬁne art, design and timehonoured trades. Goulder credits the late George Ingham, his teacher and mentor while studying at the Canberra School of Art, as leaving him with this legacy of exploratory fastidiousness. And while relishing the international acclaim afforded through his current ‘icon’ pieces, Goulder predicts his future lies in commissions, which allow him to create dynamic, one-off pieces and to work directly with the commissioner and other practitioners. Goulder describes the recent Wesfarmers commission as his most exciting project to date. In 2008 Wesfarmers and architectural consultants Woods Bagot engaged cultural organisation FORM to select the designers who would create two furniture pieces for Wesfarmers’ refurbished reception in Perth’s CBD. Goulder was selected to work with fellow maker Malcolm Harris in what became a watershed project. The Australian-oak reception furniture, a free-form carve of extraordinary scale, became the ﬁrst work created speciﬁcally for the prominent Wesfarmers Collection of Australian Art. object 58 / 41
Above: Inside Jon Goulder’s Perth workshop at Midland Atelier. Above right: Jon Goulder, Calypso Lounge, 2008, fibre glass, wool felt and stainless steel. Photo: Bill Shaylor Right: Jon Goulder, Leda Seat, 2003, CNC cut birch plantation plywood, aluminium frame. Photo: Justin Maliowski
Both Goulder and Harris initially questioned the feasibility of their design concepts, but were lured by the chance to do something not done before. ‘It was a huge challenge,’ Goulder admits. For Goulder, the professional development and opportunities garnered through his ongoing association with FORM have both enabled his creative freedom and opened doors. ‘Having worked with FORM for over four years, I am very proud to be part of it,’ he says. ‘Everyone in the team is accomplished in their own right. The (Executive) Director Lynda Dorrington has amazing vision and inspires us all to go beyond what we originally thought possible. I look at what is going on across FORM’s program areas and am continually blown away. If you work there you need to have a great deal of passion.
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But these are the people Lynda attracts – together we accomplish some amazing projects across the Canning Stock Route, regional Western Australia and the city.’ Goulder is in the process of achieving another vision: he is currently developing a solo exhibition of new work, to be shown alongside select existing favourites. Goulder says this exhibition, developed, curated and funded by FORM, is ‘a very rare opportunity. To create ten brand new pieces of furniture in one hit and be supported through the process is incredible.’ With a launch at Perth’s FORM Gallery at the beginning of 2010, the exhibition intends to tour to New York City, with interest also piqued from commercial spaces in Europe and Sydney. The exhibition, like the Wesfarmers commission, is being created at Midland Atelier, where Goulder is a permanent artist in residence. Fully operational by 2010, the Atelier is Western Australia’s ﬁrst creative industries centre. Located on the eastern outskirts of Perth, it is the brainchild of FORM, which has partnered with the Midland Redevelopment Authority to develop, program and
manage the precinct. The Atelier will house design studios for multimedia, glass, wood and furniture, jewellery, and large-scale metal and architectural/ public work, and incorporate a rigorous program aimed at high-end professional development, learning, collaboration and cultural exchange. In Goulder’s words, Midland Atelier will ‘become one of Australia’s beacons of creative endeavour … already it is attracting some of the best creatives from around the world. I feel that together we can build an energy that is both creative and industrious, and in time the Atelier will help to contribute to the growth of national and international art, craft and design.’ The phrase ‘great expectations’ comes to mind, but one suspects Goulder and the troupe are more than capable. Elisha Buttler is a writer, curator and cultural strategist.
These 18 university graduates from across the country are a striking indication of the inventiveness and imagination of Australian design at this moment in time.
Design for Studio Production Hannah Wight University of South Australia, Adelaide
These are the faces and the works of ﬁnalists in Design Now! 2009, Object’s highly-anticipated annual national graduate exhibition. This year the six Design Now! 2009 categories cover design for studio production, the home, the built environment, industry, the body and communication. With innovative designs from animation and fashion to jewellery and furniture, the exhibition, which runs from 18 April to 21 June, showcases the best and freshest.
What has inspired your design? The inspiration for my work was strongly connected to my research into the incessant need for technical perfection within traditional embroidery and my own need to rebel against what is expected. The images that I have stitched are fragments of pictures of myself and portray a feeling of being trapped behind or within something, relating to my sense of containment within the conventions of a traditional embroidery practice and the necessity of perfection. Each design has a facade of perfection with a reverse side showing a chaotic mess of elongated and wasteful thread tails, depicting both a conformity with and an escape from the predetermined shapes of tradition.
Amanda McKenzie Monash University, Melbourne
Object Magazine’s Managing Editor, Joan-Maree Hargreaves, questions Australia’s design future in this very special edition of Emerging. Why did you choose to study in your field? Glass is a very unique medium – it is fragile and delicate yet can obtain volume and depth. It has a vulnerability about its nature. The beauty of its characteristics allows me to sculpt it in all forms, shapes and sizes, capturing hallowed objects as solid. What has inspired your design? Traditional baroque still-life oil paintings (especially the work of Caravaggio) and the different interpretations of its symbology. Symbology and meaning in the still life has changed over the centuries, and have been phased out in contemporary art. In my work, I am focusing on introducing a new model of the still life in a modern and relevant style that can be interpreted in a society of materialistic values.
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Karla Way RMIT University, Melbourne
Michael Anderson University of Technology, Sydney
Why did you choose to study in your field?
What has inspired your design? My design was inspired by safety. When deciding on an industry to research, I wanted to explore problems that, if solved, may help people in some way. The arboriculture industry is known for its dangerous working environment. I found many holes in the industry where industrial design could bring about positive change.
I think it has become more apparent to me recently. The processes of creating personal artefact, or a story, and the wide range of materials available to do so, are what appeal the most to me.
What has inspired your design? Primitive forms. The effects of time and the elements on objects. Archaeology. Transformations in nature. Growth and decay. Ambiguity in terms of time, place and materials. Fiction. My works cross the boundaries of what is utilitarian and what is adornment – what is vessel, what is jewellery?
Design for Industry Krista Lindegger Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne
Why did you choose to study in your field? Industrial design is creative, very diverse and therefore offers a broad selection to design what interests me. This includes anything from furniture, sports equipment, household products, consumer electronics and medical equipment to event design. As an industrial designer I can have a certain inﬂuence on people’s lifestyle and their behaviour in the future, as well as be a part of shaping new directions that include the ability to make the world more sustainable with successful environmental solutions. What was the most useful element of the program/course? The attention to detail and the importance of sustainability and functional design.
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Why did you choose to study in your field? My youth was spent playing with Lego, drawing and making things from council clean-ups. I guess I owe thanks to my parents for never buying me a Sega master system or Ninja turtles. When I heard there was a profession where you could draw, design products and be as creative as you want I made the decision to study it at university.
Barton Smith Monash University, Melbourne
What has inspired your design? The project aimed to solve three problems with current personal computers: repair the ‘desktop metaphor’ interface we use for organising our myriad of data; increase our interaction with computers, making it more natural and ﬂuent; and lower the effect consumer electronics and consumer habits are having on the environment. Why did you choose to study in your field? When I was young I always had a fascination for how things worked. In high school I thought I wanted to study graphic design but later realised how much I love the physical interaction of products.
Design for the Built Environment
Alex Nicholls University of Sydney, Sydney
Naomi Fogel RMIT University, Melbourne
What has inspired your design? Why did you choose to study in your field? Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to touch everything. Toys would get judged on their softness, clothes on their textures, and as I got older this awareness of materials only became more dominant and inﬂuential. I started interior design because I fell in love with model-making after studying textile design. Mine has always been a very hands-on approach to design, but has also moved to a fascination with the creation of spaces for inhabitation. It explores the relationships between people and their immediate surroundings, and has the potential of making an integral difference to the way people live, work and play. The more speciﬁc the design challenge, the more personal and successful the outcome is likely to be.
Anthony Hamilton-Smith RMIT University, Melbourne
Most importantly my design was inspired by the brief and the site. The brief called for a building that revered the boat and created the best environment to view the form of the hull in the context of Sydney Harbour. The site was also very inspirational: its rich history, the decaying industrial and colonial architecture, the island’s ghostly qualities; the lack of people, the rust, the rubble, the paint peeling, the scale of some the abandoned structures; as well as the harbour, the water, the foreshore, the cliffs and the strong maritime history. Also the idea of a ‘double negative’ sense of poché space is explored in my design through carved spaces: the cave like an upturned hull, the vault like the nave of a church and ﬁnally the catacomb-like service spaces.
Design for the Body Hayley Barsden Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia
What has inspired your design? The Slow Kitchen is inspired by 1950s and ’60s Scandinavian furniture design, the Slow Food/Design Movement, the simple functionality of Shaker furniture, as well as bicycle culture.
Why did you choose to study in your field? I have been building and designing furniture, small dwellings and sculptural objects since early childhood, and along the way have developed a love of the design process. With this in mind, interior design seemed to ﬁt perfectly
What was the biggest challenge you faced during the design process? The biggest challenge to my ﬁnal design for my thesis was to keep the piece as simple as possible while being functional, all the while adhering strictly to the philosophy and ideas behind it.
What was the biggest challenge you faced during the design process? Managing wood construction, understanding the qualities of wood and being able to manipulate them in order to meet my requirements.
Why did you choose to study in your field? It provided a blank canvas of opportunity to explore and challenge the notion of ‘fashion’ and textile construction.
What was the most useful element of the program/course? It provides scope to explore the space in between art and design, being able to do both and cross over between the two.
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Kim Wong Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia
Design for Communication Lucy Simpson College Of Fine Arts, UNSW, Sydney
What has inspired your design? The many fairytales that I have read since I was little. They inspire me to think beyond the boundaries and immerse myself in my imagination. Why did you choose to study in your field? I have always been interested in design, and arts and crafts. I love making things on a smaller scale where results can be achieved by doing it all by myself and in a relatively short amount of time. I love the satisfaction that comes from it and that’s why I chose to make jewellery. I have always preferred to make objects that are practical, and with jewellery they can be beautiful objects and also serve a purpose of being worn on the body.
Harmony Lam RMIT University, Melbourne
What was the biggest challenge you faced during the design process? As my work explores personal memories and experiences, it is the very ﬁrst step of identifying what exactly it is you are trying to convey or that you need to explore that prompted the most challenges. In designing for the body, the most difﬁcult undertaking within this collection was making garments look non-functional, excessive and deceptive to the eye. With precise pattern-cutting and undertaking unorthodox ways of constructing garments I discovered methods of both representing the concept and allowing the body to move freely. Making something look effortless takes the greatest effort.
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What was the biggest challenge you faced during the design process? The biggest challenge for me was putting my designs and ideas into action, and the actual production process. The idea of a ‘real’ project that would go into production meant I had to have conﬁdence in my own work, and not let myself be daunted by the idea of approaching and working with a company in a mentoring partnership in the materialisation of such a personal and independent project. As a result of the project, however, I ended up having one of the most exciting, fulﬁlling and rewarding experiences in my professional career.
Eric Ng University of Technology, Sydney
Why did you choose to study in your field? My father was an architect, and I think a lot of that rubbed off on me while I was growing up. But I don’t think I had the patience for a seven-year course, or to wait years for a building to be completed! I think graphic design is a pretty good mix. It’s probably the most ubiquitous of the design disciplines, and it has a huge range of applications. I am a ﬁrm believer in designers being a catalyst for change, and visual communication is something that a lot of people can relate to.
Christina Perry and Derrick Gee University of Technology, Sydney
Renata Carmichael University of Tasmania, Tasmania
What has inspired your design? We both were fascinated with visually communicating the ideas of silence and sound, as well as their relationship to each other. Also, we had always wanted to work on a project involving the visual interpretation of music. What was the biggest challenge you faced during the design process? Continually pushing ourselves until we were satisﬁed with our work. Sometimes you can be your own worst client!
What has inspired your design? My work is inspired by animals and the way they move. What was the biggest challenge you faced during the design process? My toughest challenge is making sure the animals don’t look static and lifeless, and the toughest bit of building them is making the wood do what I want it to – my work involves a few bits of interesting joinery.
Why did you choose to study in your field? Looking back, we both felt that visual communication was the best way to combine logical thinking with a creative process. Over time though, we both came to love visual communication for the challenge of creating elegance out of information.
Why did you choose to study in your field? I chose to study furniture because I liked the idea that my art could actually be useful as well as looking good.
James Oates Swinburne University of Technology, Melbourne
Design for the Home Kali Norman Curtin University of Technology, Western Australia
What has inspired your design? My body of work is a study of shadow play and light through the seasons. The idea of light and shadow appeals to me, as it is so inﬂuential on our mood and state of mind, in particular the effects of dappled light. Why did you choose to study in your field? I chose to study in the jewellery ﬁeld after seeing some footage of a couture jewellery show, and being amazed by the possibility and expression of the work
Why did you choose to study in your field? I am a collector and observer of objects. I believe that industrial design can have a profound impact on the way people spend their ‘everyday life’. It is a broad ﬁeld, but the aspect I am most interested in is that it can encourage people to think or act in different ways. In the case of this design, I’m trying to encourage people to partake in a ritual that will bring some fulﬁlment. My university lecturer would refer to designers as ‘social engineers’ – I like this notion. The kinds of objects people surround themselves with, or that people use, can say much about someone.
object 5857/ /47 object 47
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a new era for new york’s museum of arts and design WORDS BY MARGOT OSBORNE
In the 1970s, Adelaide-based curator, Margot Osborne, spent 10 months as a trainee at the Museum of Contemporary Crafts. As last year came to an end, she revisited the museum, which is now known as the Museum of Arts and Design, New York. Osborne reveals her experience at MAD, then and now.
The Museum of Arts and Design’s Chazen Building, designed by Allied Works Architecture. Photo: Hélène Binet
In September 2008 New York’s Museum of Arts and Design (MAD) ﬁnally opened the doors of its long-awaited new premises, in a premium dress circle location at Columbus Circle. The landmark 1964 building, which was originally designed to house a Gallery of Modern Art devoted to the collection of Huntington Hartford, has been given a total makeover by Allied Works Architects. The exterior is clad in an iridescent skin of handmade ceramic tiles, pierced with narrow bands of glazing. It has an understated, reﬁned elegance that is both sophisticated and totally contemporary. The interior design is somewhat less impressive, due to the constraints of ﬁtting the museum functions into the pre-existing footprint of a 1960s building. In the circumstances it works reasonably well. Most importantly, it provides MAD with vastly improved and expanded facilities. The galleries spread over four levels are not as spacious as one might hope, but compensate for this with wonderful natural light. This comes both from high-set windows and from an unusual
light-well that slices through the pale wood ﬂoors in a diagonal slash, as a continuation of the geometric design of the exterior glazing. Other facilities include a 160-seat theatre, seminar room, artist residency studios, children’s dirty room, shop, function room and a soon-toopen top ﬂoor restaurant, blessed with some of the best views in NYC. In November I met with MAD’s chief curator, David McFadden, who outlined his plans for the exhibitions program over the coming year. ‘Things have been going splendidly since we opened,’ he told me. ‘In the ﬁrst three weeks we have had nearly 50,000 visitors, which for us is a major change. If we had 50,000 in three months at our old address we would be lucky.’ The opening exhibitions reﬂected a careful strategy to position MAD for a new era of expanded operations beyond the conﬁnes of craft. This direction was ﬂagged with the name change in 2002 from American Craft Museum, but now MAD has the right setting to fulﬁl its ambitions.
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A NEW ERA FOR NEW YORK’S MUSEUM OF ARTS AND DESIGN
Left: Sketch of The Museum of Arts and Design’s Chazen Building. Right: Installation view of Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary, featuring Pablo Reinoso’s Spiralthonet, 2008. Photo: Richard Barnes
Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary, the major opening exhibition with 54 artists from ﬁve continents, was organised by McFadden in association with curator Lowery Stokes Sims and adjunct curator, Object’s Brian Parkes. It was a welljudged blend of ‘wow’ factor and cultural engagement. Many of the spectacular installations, sculptures and objects were made from thousands of multiples using repurposed man-made materials. They showed daunting ingenuity and scary obsession with repetitive detail, while touching on pertinent social issues. Susie MacMurray’s gown made from rubber gloves had a bizarre glamour, as did Andy Diaz Hope’s and Laurel Roth’s risqué chandelier with hypodermic syringe pendants. Then there was the lyricism of Tara Donovan’s stalactite sculpture, made from thousands of plastic buttons; the spectacle of Jill Townsley’s pyramid, made from 9,273 plastic spoons and 3,091 rubber bands; and the politically-charged impact of Nigerian artist El Anatsui’s massive gold wallhanging, made from countless thousands of foil tops from liquor bottles. Terese Agnew’s image of a textile worker was composed of thousands of clothing labels, while Johnny Swing’s silver couch
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(reminiscent of Marc Newson’s Lockhead Lounge) was made from thousands of fused US nickel coins. You get the picture. There was a danger of overload from so many clever ‘look at me’ pieces. Their explicit virtuosity in showing-off the means of manufacture risked overwhelming or even substituting for the message. Amongst the works not composed of multiples, there is the lingering impact of Marek Cecula’s grouping of industrial chinaware, which had achieved a strange naturalistic aura after being glazed in a wood-ﬁred kiln. Dodecahedrons made from vegetable steamers by the lone Australian artist, Donna Marcus, looked underwhelming in this high-calibre company. The other two opening exhibitions stayed comfortably within conventional craft territory, providing the necessary balance to the challenges of Second Lives. Elegant Armour was an impeccably presented view of the MAD collection of jewellery from the 1940s to the present Permanently MAD, an ongoing exhibition, showcased some 250 premium objects in the permanent collection, dating from the 1950s to the present. While the individual objects were fascinating, there was insufﬁcient logic or narrative to their
display. We gleaned very little sense of the evolution of American craft, and there was too much visual confusion from the competing clash of virtuoso objects. However, the accompanying touch-screen display, designed to enable visitors to ﬁnd out more about the permanent collection, was state-of-the-art fabulous, userfriendly and informative. McFadden explained how these opening exhibitions exemplify a broader vision for the future direction of MAD: It was very important not to open with a traditional craft media show because that would have locked us into our history in an unfortunate way. We had to break away from that world by looking at what a material is from a different vantage point. The idea that these artists take existing things and make them into a material is the important angle. So it opened up the territory and gave us free range to not even discuss whether it’s craft or art. That debate is no longer important. We took the word ‘craft’ out of our name. The reason it was done was intentional. To be able to use the word as it should be used, we had to get rid of it as a ‘capital C’ category of objects.
Left: Installation view of Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary, featuring (back to front): Paul Villinski’s My Back Pages, 2006–08; and Donna Marcus’s Fall 2, 2002, Dodecahedron I, 2002, and Dodecahedron X, 2008. Photo: Richard Barnes
Because that is what people thought craft was. But craft isn’t a thing. It’s an attitude, it’s an approach. You can’t pin it down to a three-dimensional thing you can hold in your hand. It’s a way of working. It’s a way of transforming materials. So now we happily use the word craft again because we have redeﬁned it within our scope of working with the bigger picture of what art is all about. McFadden outlined some of the other exhibitions planned for the ﬁrst 12 months that will realise this vision and help MAD position itself for a new expanded audience: We are doing a number of projects that put forward our mission – which is looking at this wonderful and exciting territory that is somewhere between craft, art and design. That is important because today the world of visual arts has changed radically. People who were categorised as a craftsperson or designer or artist, those categories don’t hold anymore. Craftspeople are designing for industry, industrial designers are making one-of-a-kind works of art, and artists are using craft techniques and materials. So it is a much greyer area. For me it is a very
exciting area. I feel like we are at the beginning of a new renaissance in terms of the creativity that’s out there. So we will be doing exhibitions that look at this territory in various ways. In 2009 we are opening an exhibition called Object Factory, which will take the pulse of what’s happening in the world of contemporary porcelain. It goes from industrial products, to products designed by artists, to artistic interventions using existing works, to works of high technology. It looks at this one medium that has been around for hundreds of years in Europe and it is exciting what’s happening right now. Later in the year I will be opening the third exhibition in my series called Process and Materials. This series looks at traditional handcraft techniques and their relevance to the contemporary art and design scene. It started two years ago when I did an exhibition called Radical Lace and Subversive Knitting, which had work by 24 artists from about 14 different countries looking at those techniques, but in a way that took people by surprise because they had no idea what was going on out there. That was followed by an embroidery show called Pricked
– Extreme Embroidery. The third, which will open in 2009, is called Slash – Paper under the Knife, and it has cut paper from all over the world. Those works very much blur any boundaries between craft, art and design. It looks at the technique across the board, and looks at how artists across the globe are transforming it. For those with long memories it is worth noting that MAD’s programming today is actually very close to the way things were in the decade from the mid-1960s to the mid-1970s. Under its innovative Director, Paul J. Smith, the Museum of Contemporary Crafts (as MAD was then known) staged wildly imaginative exhibitions which, in the revolutionary spirit of those times, set out to break down barriers between artists, craft practitioners and designers. McFadden agrees. ‘Those were some of the most exciting years and now we’re trying to recapture that energy.’ Margot Osborne is a freelance writer and curator living in Adelaide. In 1975–76 she spent 10 months as a trainee at the then Museum of Contemporary Crafts (now Museum of Arts and Design), New York.
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deviant and devious ceramics WORDS BY EDWARD HANFLING
Right: Paul Maseyk, St. Paul, the Cowboy and King Dick Venture Out to See the Sights, 2008, ceramic. Photo: courtesy of the artist
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A painted pot is still a pot, not a painting, and as such it takes its place within a long history that stretches behind it – many, many centuries – and (no less important) ahead of it, into an almost unpredictable future. Presumably, the goal of every potter is to secure a position in that future, which remains predictable only to this extent: that a select few are capable of making objects of enduring quality. These objects may appear outlandish now, but with time they look inexplicably right and good.
The checked and illusionistic patterns, the ﬁgures, the brand names and appropriated artworks that Paul Maseyk paints on his pots are effective. So too the pastel hues amongst the prevailing black, or dark soft grey, and creamy white, and the matte surface – Maseyk has generally made a virtue out of his renunciation of glazes. The pots, exhibited in November at Masterworks Gallery in Auckland, are better for having been painted in this idiosyncratic fashion, and the painting is better for being bound to the pots. For some reason, when Maseyk paints on ﬂat supports (examples of this were also able to be seen at Masterworks) he does not carry it off half as well. Evidently, he has a peculiar knack for using the shapes of pots – the bulges and hollows – to augment the originality of his graphic style.
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DEVIANT AND DEVIOUS CERAMICS
This page, left to right: Paul Maseyk, There’s No Flies on Me (photographed without base), 2008, ceramic. Photo: courtesy of the artist
Opposite: Paul Maseyk, Same Shit Different Country – Memories of Montana, 2008, ceramic. Photo: courtesy of the artist
Paul Maseyk, Subtle, 2008, ceramic. Photo: courtesy of the artist
Maseyk’s graphic style is truly graphic: violent, vulgar and prurient. Of course the idea is to shock the unsuspecting viewer, and to be subversive whilst working within a medium that might seem innocuous, harmless. The idea is not new – the Englishman Grayson Perry comes to mind immediately – and it does not make Maseyk’s pots, considered as complete entities, genuinely subversive. However, the explicit sexual imagery is frequently in tune with the suggestive shapes of the pots themselves. Perry, in contrast, has tended to favour more traditional forms, so that his detailed images, visible at close range, work against the beautiful, classical lines of his pots as seen initially – that is, from further away.
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Maseyk is not so sneaky. He is not, as one of his pots blusteringly proclaims him to be, subtle. But this is where things get interesting. Maseyk is attempting to do something ambitious with his medium. The images are not just a veneer, or a means of dressing up sheep in wolves’ clothing. Whereas Perry, in making pots that look good, is effectively keeping the ceramic tradition in a holding pattern until someone truly great comes along to shake things up good and proper, Maseyk is taking on the challenge himself of trying to push the tradition further, to keep it moving ahead of ‘taste’. You can tell that this is the task he has set himself because his pots are not visually, aesthetically pleasing according to any previous standards. Indeed they are clunky, lumpish, contorted, precarious and generally ‘off’. Even the more conventional shapes are not perfectly right, proportionally sound, true. The crux of the matter is ‘truth’, however, because a deviation from the tried and the true has still to carry conviction and integrity. Wilful badness, or a desire to
make something that looks bad simply because one does not wish to make something that looks good in the way that things have looked good before, does not constitute being true to the discipline or medium, even if it is true to one’s foibles. Maseyk has certainly taken some risks, like the cantilever effect produced by the staggered lower sections of There’s No Flies on Me, 2008. There can be no question about his willingness to depart from inherited standards. Rather, the question is whether Maseyk’s painted pots, with their eccentricities and distortions, are as guileless as they are skilful and fascinating. www.masterworksgallery.com Edward Hanﬂing is a freelance writer, critic and curator. He writes a regular review column for Art New Zealand and is based in Auckland.
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Fiona Gavino, Perspectives shelf, 2008, pith cane. Photo: Tony Nathan
MOMENTUM, the 18th Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial 2008 Tamworth Regional Gallery, Tamworth 15 November 2008 – 18 January 2009 Widely considered the most inﬂuential ongoing Australian textile exhibition, Momentum (the 18th Tamworth Textile Biennial) presented a collection of unique and highly emotive work. While the concept of Momentum immediately suggests the progressive technologies embraced by contemporary textile practice, many of the works remained outside this categorisation, some being entirely handmade. The conundrum this poses is perhaps the show’s most intriguing outcome. In fact, the unique ways in which artists successfully combined contemporary and traditional techniques rendered the resulting work altogether new – with these processes drawing together exciting technological advances alongside the quiet, yet indelible, mark of the hand. In Jill Kinnear’s Diaspora, 2008, new paisley designs constructed from metal were scanned by an airport baggage device. The resulting images were manipulated, direct-digitally printed (DDP) onto silk and constructed into hand-fringed shawls. The x-ray gives a striking coloured and textured spectrum, the intricate detail mimicking traditional woven jacquard shawls. Cecilia Heffer, Annabelle Collett and Annie Trevillian all also used DDP technology in their work for this exhibition. Heffer acknowledges the textile tradition of lace making, designing new motifs that are directdigitally printed onto silk and over-printed using traditional screen-printing methods, then meticulously cut into medallions and reconstructed into lace panels using free-machine embroidery. A well-considered reuse of materials in the tradition of ‘making do’ also enhanced the integrated relationship of contemporary and traditional techniques within the show. This was immediately evident in the work of Louise Saxton, Lucille Martin and Demelza Sherwood, through their selection of domestic table linens, which they deconstructed and reconstructed to offer a re-seeing of these well-known textile forms. These pieces of cloth were chosen for their embedded histories and the quality of marks that already existed
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within the cloth. Some less obvious examples include Liz Jeneid’s use of discarded tea bags, Mandy Gunn’s work (constructed of shredded rubber-tyre inner tubes), and Vicki Mason’s indiscriminate combination of ‘precious and non-precious materials’,1 amalgamating various metals, PVC, polyester and rayon. As well as pushing the boundaries of what can be considered textile material, these pieces lodge a protest against the wanton over-use of materials and the huge amount of waste in the textile industry. There was an exciting sense that many of these artists are testing the limits of these materials through their process of making, often using traditional textile techniques to uniquely manipulate these new, found, and sometimes deconstructed materials. Alongside this, many of the artists represented in Momentum devised their own materials through a combination of traditional and non-traditional textile processes: Rodney Love spun and weaved human hair using an ancient core spinning and twill weaving technique; Alana CliftonCunningham merged hand-knitted forms with machine-knitted pieces (done on a very old knitting machine) alongside laser-cut leather and Tasmanian oak-veneer elements. The works within this show reacted against the preconceptions of textile techniques and form. They deﬁed and surprised through their dual capacity to pay homage to tradition while simultaneously embracing the drive of new technology. It is this equilibrium that takes the work beyond literal and predictable outcomes. www.tamworthregionalgallery.com.au Dr Belinda von Mengersen is a textile artist and academic, College of Fine Arts, School of Design, University of New South Wales.
Note 1. Momentum, 18th Tamworth Fibre Textile Biennial 2008 exhibition catalogue, Tamworth Regional Gallery, Tamworth, p. 28.
Yinka Shonibare, MBE, How to Blow up Two Heads at Once (Ladies), 2006, two life-size fibreglass mannequins, two guns, Dutch wax-printed cotton textile, shoes, leather riding boots, plinth. Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA, USA. Museum purchase, Wellesley College Friends of Art. Image: courtesy of the artist, Stephen Friedman Gallery, London and James Cohan Gallery, New York © the artist. Photo: Stephen White
Yinka Shonibare MBE The Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney 24 September 2008 – 1 February 2009 Yinka Shonibare’s diverse oeuvre of photographs, videos, paintings and free-standing sculptural mannequins transport us into the lavish and extravagant worlds of eighteenth-century imperial culture. While visually opulent and seductive, the works also deploy a political lens that demonstrates the intricacies of racial and class bias embedded within some of Britain and Europe’s pre-eminent eighteenth-century cultural forms. Many of the works re-stage theatrical tableaux and scenes from canonical paintings and works of literature, including scenes from Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Grey and Sir Henry Raeburn’s portrait The Reverend Robert Walker Skating on Duddingston Loch. These tableaux repeat the main design principles from the original scenes with incongruous elements thrown in: life-sized headless ﬁbreglass mannequins, black men and eighteenth-century costumes adorned with African motifs. Re-framed in this way, the scenes highlight the politics of race and class conventionally obscured. For example, The Swing (after Fragonard), 2001, recreated after Jean-Honoré Fragonard’s 1767 painting, The Swing, highlights the economic bias underpinning the French aristocracy’s excessive leisure time and unrestricted pleasure – a bias that was celebrated in the ﬂouncy, decorative French Rococo style that ﬂourished during the reign of Louis XV. Shonibare’s mannequin appropriates the swing scene with his ﬁgure suspended in headless ﬂight, as if ungrounded by the base concerns of economic or material necessities. Indeed, all of the mannequins are headless, as if in despoliation of British and French imperial dominance, robbed of the subjectivity and rationality that is so central to the Imperial I/ eye. Other scenes exploit famous English historical ﬁgures having ‘lost their heads’ in a ﬁgurative sense, given over to orgiastic sexual decadence, like those groups of copulating headless mannequins in Gallantry and Criminal Conversation, 2002. Here the ﬁgures of enlightenment have abandoned their lofty ambitions of progress on their ‘Grand Tour’ – their life-sized coach is suspended from the
ceiling in mid-air, where they’ve been caught out on the roadside frozen in acts of group sex. The most striking features of Shonibare’s works are the splendidly detailed eighteenth-century costumes worn by the mannequins and the actors in the photographs and ﬁlms. The dresses and coat-tails reference the opulence, extravagance and excess of the eighteenthcentury imperial centres, tailored to perfection by professional costume-makers in the design of Dutch wax-printed cotton fabrics. Yet, while the sumptuous detail and visual opulence of the images may initially seduce us into a nostalgic fetishism for ‘heritage’ and period costume, we’re soon jolted back to an awareness of the racial and class politics underpinning imperial history, narrative, culture and, most importantly, visual aesthetics. The opulence associated with British imperialism is subverted by the fabric designs and their references to African motifs and patterns, alluding to histories of trade and colonial exploitation. The bicultural fusion in Shonibare’s costumes is metonymic for his broader interest in the relationship between colonialism and cultural marginality – a thematic that sutures the content of all of his works. Born in England in 1962 and raised in Nigeria before returning to London at the age of 17, Shonibare is well-versed in the politics at play in cross-cultural contact zones. Indeed, it’s at these very intersections that the signiﬁcance of his works lie – where European-ness, or that which was once taken to be central, becomes immobilised, skewed and displaced. It’s a view of history in which the imperial centre is beheaded and blinded, such that we’re in a position allowing us to view history through different eyes – scrutinising visuality itself and questioning how and what we’ve been encouraged to see in the past. Dr Marita Bullock teaches Australian Studies at Macquarie University, Sydney. She is currently writing a book titled Memory Fragments: Excavations of Trash in Contemporary Visual Culture.
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Liz Williamson, Grey Edge, 2008, wool, cotton. Photo: Ian Hobbs
Liz Williamson: Textiles Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design, Sydney 8 November 2008 – 11 January 2009 Liz Williamson: Textiles is the fourth exhibition in the Living Treasures series that has seen ceramicist Les Blakebrough, glass artist Klaus Moje and jeweller Marian Hosking featured in the splendid gallery space at Object: Australian Centre for Craft and Design. Later this year we will see a survey show of the work of ceramic artist Jeff Mincham, and 2010 will bring a survey of the objects of goldsmith Robert Baines. Living Treasures, impeccably curated and accompanied by scholarly catalogues and public forums, is the best way to celebrate the extraordinary achievements of our craft artists. The work of Liz Williamson has been exhibited, collected and, most importantly, worn by her supporters for 25 years. Artist, university lecturer, mentor, art administrator, Williamson has been, through talent, charm and determination, one of our most successful and inﬂuential textile artists. We get a full sense of her career by reading Dr Grace Cochrane’s excellent catalogue. The exhibition itself, curated by Brian Parkes, has a narrower brief, focusing thematically on the past four years of Williamson’s work. Nonetheless, it manages to give an overview of the sheer complexity, originality and beauty of her wraps, blankets and containers. The earliest works in the exhibition, the Domestic Damask wall pieces of 2004, give a clear indication of the conceptual underpinnings of Liz Williamson’s work. They are woven on a Jacquard loom, often sourcing existing cloth, stitched and darned, tracing the double history of the original maker and of the repairer, whose marks are recycled and revived in the new work. The concept of the seen/unseen is explored further in the handwoven and felted Darned series, in which Williamson investigates personal histories in ‘works that asked – what experiences are recorded in the surface of the fabric, embedded in its structure?’1
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Another theme evident in the exhibition is that of containers – of the small and large objects in the Sac series – all using leather, cotton and plant-dyed silk to create cocoons for hiding and for storage. A different sense of enclosure comes through in Williamson’s Loop pieces, in their subtle maroon, indigo, grey and black circular tubes that can be worn as necklaces or sashes. The exhibition gives a strong sense of the continuity and overlapping nature of Williamson’s recurring motifs, integrating personal memories with historic artefacts and Asian inﬂuences. Comfortable with mixing humble darnings, handweaving and high-end technology, the works are intimate and conceptually stimulating at the same time. It is not easy to show textiles in a satisfying way – we want to touch them, to wrap them against our shoulders, to put them to the use they were intended for. The joy of this exhibition rests with the extraordinary art of Liz Williamson and her capacity to transcend the simple object into works that have the poetic depth and power of the imagination of true artistic expression. Anna Waldmann was director of Visual Arts at the Australia Council. She is currently a Visiting Fellow at the College of Fine Arts (University of NSW), National and International art adviser at the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation and a member of the editorial advisory board of Art & Australia.
Note 1. Liz Williamson, ‘Darning: A visible thread’, Textile Society of America Conference, October 2004, p. 1.
Tony Albert, Girramay/Kuku Yalanji people, Sorry, 2008, mixed media on applied vinyl. Photo: Courtesy of the artist.
Contemporary Australia: Optimism Gallery of Modern Art, Brisbane 15 November 2008 – 22 February 2009 The public perception of contemporary Australian art has been signiﬁcantly inﬂuenced by the likes of Perspecta, the Adelaide Biennial, Primavera and other survey exhibitions. Now, the Queensland Art Gallery/Gallery of Modern Art, which made its reputation with the Asia Paciﬁc Triennials (themselves highly inﬂuential exhibitions), has moved into a triennial exhibition program proﬁling contemporary Australian art. The ﬁrst show – Contemporary Australia: Optimism – was keenly anticipated. There has been intense scrutiny of the ﬁnal selection of artists, ﬁnetuned under the theme of ‘Optimism’. Fashionable mid-career artists like Tim Maguire sit alongside those who have not enjoyed similar commercial success in recent years (like Aleks Danko). There are plenty of ‘hot young things’ (Tony Alberts, Arlene TextaQueen, Sean Cordeiro and Claire Healy), and the Salon Project proﬁles the current interest in realist painting. And then there are the wild cards, without which a show like this would have little frisson. Sally Gabori’s large canvas is a moving tribute, in paint and colour, to her love for country and the memories she shared with her late husband. While this makes perfect sense of the ‘Optimism’ theme, the work of Kate Murphy, whose video installation sees her sobbing face projected larger than life as she listens to a psychic traversing her personal territory, patently doesn’t. A survey is only as good as its curatorial rationale, and this one meets the contemporary challenge now widely spread to incorporate artforms (ﬁlm, music, television) that would not have been seen in visual art surveys a decade ago. It is a show of its time, with the current literary and social obsession with life lived (whether famous or not) writ large. This is also a feature of the exhibition catalogue, with its introductory essays canvassing the lives of the essayists with a broad interest in humanity, rather than focusing particularly on the art.
Whether or not art has a higher human purpose, Optimism proposes that it may offer hope and a framework for understanding, perhaps especially in a time of social and economic uncertainty. What we see is a multidimensional range of colour, luscious paint, realism, photographic interpretations, installation, humour and emotion. Patricia Piccinini’s Vespa family of motor-scooter-morphed offspring is an unsettlingly mechanised representation of tenderness, while Del Kathryn Barton’s sexualised drawings are searing in their emotional heat. There is a sense that realities, extant and imagined, need the touchstone of real life. It is possible to bliss out on the colour and lyricism in many of the works, but some also have a notable historical resonance, with George Nona remaking the traditional Torres Strait Islander headdress, the dhoeri, for a visual arts audience. Art may always offer a mirror of sorts to society, albeit twisted into new insights in the best work, and all of our current concerns are visible here, from the environmental imperative to the necessity for the belly laugh. Optimism is lively, distracting, narcissistic: an escape and a salutary reminder that creativity and innovation of all sorts are themselves acts of optimism. Louise Martin-Chew is a Queensland-based freelance writer and director of mc/k art.
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Left: MCR Blairgowrie, McBride Charles Ryan, Blairgowrie Residence, 2008. Photo: John Gollings, reproduced courtesy of John Gollings and McBride Charles Ryan
Below: McIntyre Partnership, Seahouse, 1982.
Out of the Square – Beach Architecture on the Mornington Peninsula Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery, Mornington 13 November 2008 – 22 February 2009 Three golden-skinned boys race through the coastal grasses toward the beach. Following along behind them is their mother in a white blouse and billowing skirt. Her mischievous and smiling summer face approaches us until it ﬁlls the screen. This evocative scene from the 1960s is taken from 16mm ﬁlm footage, by Peter Burns and Nigel Buest, converted to a DVD and projected as a loop in the foyer of the Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery as part of the Out of the Square – Beach Architecture on the Mornington Peninsula exhibition. Immediately an atmosphere is created that communicates an essential part of the Australian identity: sunburnt summer days at the seaside. The exhibition documents 35 architecturally-designed coastal houses, and what is demonstrated is that the Mornington Peninsula has been the testing ground for some of the most progressive design experiments in domestic building in Victoria. This was recognised as early as 1952 by Robin Boyd in his book, Australia’s Home, and Boyd is aptly quoted at the opening of the exhibition. The represented projects range from the two Gumnut houses in Frankston designed by Walter Burley Grifﬁn and Marion Mahony in 1919, to the most recent project, the McBride Charles Ryan-designed Blairgowrie House of 2008. Much historical ground is covered between, especially from the 1950s and ’60s, though the ’70s, ’80s, and early ’90s do not appear to offer so much material. In addition to this survey, ﬁve contemporary architectural practices speculate on the future of the beach house. Paul Morgan proposes a ‘bioengineered life support unit with a low environmental footprint’. WHS transforms leisure activities into a series of architectural planes for potential engagement, while the beach becomes a backdrop to the activities accommodated by the beach house, a ‘platform for pleasure’. McBride Charles Ryan’s proposal responds to unique site-speciﬁc conditions through surprising formal
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experimentation. In an admirably subtle approach, Baracco and Wright propose an almost invisible architecture. Their ‘coastal deck’ disappears into its context to leave its occupants exposed, or else in more intimate contact with nature. Many of the practices implicitly critique the excessive volumes of contemporary houses, and propose minimal shelters with a focus on contact with the external environment. Two essays in the catalogue complement the exhibition. Conrad Hamann describes the various inﬂuences on Peninsula architecture, the setting of which he describes as a ‘counter-suburban landscape’. Lucinda McLean discusses examples of modest beach houses for the everyday Australian, and we are reminded that the beach house does not have to be an architectural extravagance. In addition to the informative catalogue, a series of ﬂoor talks, panel conversations, educational workshops and lectures were organised by the gallery. The historical documentation and the speculative projection into an architectural future lend depth to the exhibition, as does the careful use of different presentation media. The measured curation of the exhibition covers an array of architectural expressions pertaining to life at the beach and manages to make the subject material accessible to a diverse audience. http://mprg.mornpen.vic.gov.au Rochus Urban Hinkel is an architect, academic and curator and has taught since 2005 in the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT University, Melbourne. In 2009 he is a Visiting Scholar at TU Berlin.
Ada Bird Petyarr, Anmatyerr, Inernt (Bean tree) Dreaming, 1991, batik on silk, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne. Purchased through The Art Foundation of Victoria with the assistance of the H. J. Heinz II Charitable and Family Trust, Governor, 1994 © Ada Bird Petyarr courtesy of Utopia Artists.
Integrating electronics into the ‘hidden’ dress construction to create pocket hand warmers in Getting Techy, 2009, by High Tea With Mrs Woo.
Across the desert: Aboriginal batik from Central Australia The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Federation Square, Melbourne 10 October 2008 – 1 February 2009
Coded Cloth, New media textiles Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, University of South Australia, Adelaide 30 October – 19 December 2008
Batik is not generally associated with the materials, gestures and iconography of contemporary Indigenous art; it is, after all, a medium long associated with the visual culture of Indonesia. The National Gallery of Victoria’s Across the desert: Aboriginal batik from Central Australia however tells a different story. Introduced into adult training classes in the late 1970s, batik was enthusiastically adopted by Indigenous women as a distinctive ﬁeld of practice.1 Showcasing work from the Central Australian communities of Ernabella, Fregon, Utopia, Yuendumu and Kintore, Across the desert contextualises Aboriginal batik as both an extension of the medium and a contemporary vehicle for the expression of cultural identity.
Coded Cloth spotlights four art objects that engender coalescing creativities, where a range of organic, magnetic, thermic and electronic media have made innovative inroads into the realms of art, fashion and design. Perceptions of how fabric, fashion and furniture are produced and utilised are challenged, as exhibition curator, Dr Melinda Rackham from the Australian Network for Art and Technology (ANAT), considers the place and future of new media textiles.
Displayed ﬂat along the gallery walls, the works in Across the desert are remarkable. Here, the repetitive patterning inherent in traditional batik design is replaced by a ﬂuid application of line: compositions favour the overall fabric plane, more than singularity of the repeated mark. Notably, Across the desert features the batik work of well-known Utopia artist Emily Kam Kngwarray. Kngwarray’s Anwerlarr (Pencil yam), with its ﬂame-red colourings and sinuous forms, is exemplary of this abstract approach to decorative motifs. But while the visual quality of the works is assured, the conceptual underpinnings of Across the desert are somewhat weaker. How politically expedient is it to simply marry this movement in Indigenous art to ‘cultural expression’? We might consider for a moment the recent Yinka Shonibare retrospective at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, an exhibition running parallel with and as a kind of counterpoint to Across the desert. Appropriating the iconography of Dutch wax textiles – a form of batik design originating in Indonesia but now synonymous with contemporary African culture – Shonibare’s sculptural installations prompt us to consider the trade in cultural motifs, not just their forms. It is precisely this political dimension that is missing from Across the desert.
Changes in couture appear in the work of Donna Franklin who, working bracket fungi (Pyconporus coccineus) onto silk, has produced the living dress Fibre Reactive, 2004–08. This unusual marriage of materials results in a rich, monochrome-orange undulating surface that forms a surprisingly tangible fashion item despite its ephemeral nature. Also reactive, Elliat Rich’s Yala Sofa, 2008, combines the culturally signiﬁcant Yala ﬂower motif with thermochromatic ink, to create a heat-responsive element in her furniture fabric design. Near invisible at room temperature, the Yala ﬂowers materialise bright white as body heat is applied to the upholstery. The dress jacket Hidden, 2007, designed by trio High Tea With Mrs Woo, is a practicable creation that allows its wearer to be warmed by an internal heater that is activated by an on/off switch located in its cuffs. Onlookers would suspect nothing of the rechargeable battery housed in the jacket’s central belt detail. In lieu of cumbersome winter layering stands graceful design, femininity and comfort. Finally, assembling found and created music, Alyce Santoro’s Sonic Sails (The Tell-Tail Thankgas), 2008, is both a sculptural wall piece and an audio installation. Santoro’s musical composition has been recorded onto cassette tape, then woven with polyester to create her sails. The magnetic property of the tape allows the gleaming hybrid fabric to emit sound, imbuing the work with a truly sonic sensibility. One anticipates an interesting journey from art object to prototype to consumer item.
Nella Themelios is the Coordinating Curator at Craft Victoria, Melbourne.
Nerina Dunt is a freelance arts writer based in Adelaide.
1. Judith Ryan, ‘Prelude to canvas: Batik cadenzas wax lyrical’ in Judith Ryan (ed.), Across the desert: Aboriginal batik from Central Australia, Council of the Trustees of the National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, 2008, p. 16. object 58 / 61