A response to 'Emerging Contemporaries'
Dr Sarah Schmidt
Today there is a great wealth of artists, craft and design people practicing in Canberra, which is itself, a designed city. The diversity of practice encompasses many disciplines, bringing additional interest, innovation and vitality, to the national capital: from furniture making and ceramics, to sculpture, and digital art, to glass art, gold and silversmithing, metalwork, painting, work on paper, and textiles. This is an active community of artists, craft and design people. From the work of individual artists, to groups engaged in collaborative making, we are fortunate to enjoy such creativity and outstanding practice in our art and design community.
Another feature of the diversity of practice across Canberra is the embrace of very established practitioners, as shown in ‘Intersection’, being celebrated alongside emerging artists that exhibitions such as ‘Emerging Contemporaries’ support.
I would like to pay attention and respect to the work of each of these emerging artists with these short statements of response:
Mika Benesh: ‘Weaving Futures’ encompasses responses to a number of ritual Jewish objects, responses which carry conceptual concerns as well as those of craft and design. The ritual mug shows a creative ingenuity both in design and process. It is crafted from woven candle wicks, dipped in molten beeswax, cast in bronze, and then silver-plated. The finished object, for ritual use, is functional yet full of mystery.
Millie Black: This artist’s explorations of air and ground, her creative responses made in thread and paper, make a strong environmental statement about a reverence for landscape. As both a painter and textile artist with a feeling for sculpture, Millie develops very sensitive works showing an affinity with nature. Bushwalking, and making with natural dyes and pigments, are central to her process.
Maitlan Brown: As a young and productive industrial designer Maitlan explores and experiments with organic forms, new technologies and processes to access functional and aesthetic solutions.
Her final chair prototype shows both creative flair and sensitive design and reflects her genuine excitement in the possibilities and newness of 3D printing technologies.
Akka Ballinger Constanin: Akka communicates an ecological awareness in her drawing and printmaking, sometimes using leaves to paint on to emphasize this foundation in her practice .Her excellent video gives a summary of her work and process, her awareness of environment and the need for education and action.
Ned Collins: Through exploration and questioning, and applying a curious and contemporary mindset, together with fine cabinetry techniques and skills, Ned has created a functional and fluid form in ‘A Statement on Cabinets and the Curiosities of Containment’ (2020). It is a design to be played with. It achieves as an interactive work of art. And it is beautiful.
Lea Durie: Lea combines her studies in Landscape Architecture, Ceramics and Visual Arts to inform her work and her responses to drought in the Murray Darling system; ‘When the Rivers Run Dry’ originates from the artist’s shock experienced in encountering dry waterways on a road trip to Broken Hill. The work leaves us pondering and so delivers the thoughtful ecological message it intends to.
Annalise Fredericks: Using her wit and the convention of the trope this artist brings an incisive vision to the knitwear catalogue, featuring items such as a knitted aluminum mask.
Daniel Leone: Daniel’s ceramic sculpture with its primitive-modernist feel encourages us to rethink a simple human stance, with a simplicity of being, and of form. The work encourages us to see the human form in a new way.
David Liu: David’s leaf table, abstracted from the shapes of a curly leaf, is marvelously dynamic with its angular spatial construction that gives the table a highly sculptural form. Its smooth finish and attractive grain are quite seductive.
Denni Maroudas: Denni’s work concerns the qualities of form, function, shape, and material. The ‘Sinuous Bench’ contrasts so greatly with the static shape of the ‘Rest Wall Hung Cabinet.’ This contrast is interesting and shows a terrific versatility, arising from the artist’s interest in carving, altering, and shaping.
Olinda Narayanan: Horizontal soft indigo thread is woven between vertical poles to create spatial connections, reflective of interpersonal relationships. Narayanan carefully builds an interesting series of spaces which draw the viewer not only into but also through, semitransparent screens; it is an entrancing statement reflective of aspects of mind and imagination that this artist creates.
Christine Little: This artist is interested in the places we inhabit. Her exploration of place also explores process. Here she has used photography to establish the tonal values that are key to this striking work.
Bling Yiu: Speckled ceramic forms are taken to another realm with optimistic and inspired human attributes; possibly influenced or linking with her earlier work as a children’s book illustrator. Other pieces decorated in blue have echoes of centuries old ceramics, applied in a modern form.
Jonathon Zalakos: As a jeweler and object maker, Jonathon explores the complexities of the mind -body dilemma with a variety of materials and interactions, such as plastics and metals, which combine to give both form and linear characteristics. His work is creative, explorative and original and succeeds at multiple levels.
We all have a role to play in this creative community, of balancing the fostering and development of emerging practitioners, as well as celebrating the extraordinary achievements of those artists and craftspeople already enjoying success, or who have a career-long journey that is ripe for the survey exhibition.
Different skills and aptitudes are involved in curating the work of artists who audiences know well, versus building emerging practitioners, stimulating their practice, and engendering opportunities, and new networks for them. Good curatorial work responds to both: it caters for all aspects of this creative field, seeing how each vital community, of emerging artists, mid-career artists and established practitioners, all inter-relate. Moreover, the best curatorial practice is a creative act itself: stepping forward with a confident eye, and armed also with a knowledge of theory and art history —and other forms of acquired knowledge— and putting this into practice with artistic judgement and analysis, to make brave new choices, curating new names, new artists, that bring new voices and images to audiences, rather than solely reinforcing the pedigrees of celebrated art heroes. Both the art heroes and the newcomers are important, but I offer a provocation to curators to be clever and creative in discovering new work; and I hope this statement will also offer inspiration to those ‘Emerging Contemporaries’ exhibiting here at Craft ACT; knowing that curators and institutions do look and observe, and new opportunities and partnerships are always forming and evolving.
The Craft ACT 2021 program launches strongly, catering to the different streams of both emerging artists and established practitioners, as evidenced so well, with these two exhibitions that mark the commencement of the 2021 program. There is a very worthy commitment here, to encouraging and sustaining creative people and emerging artists, and profiling the work of some of Canberra’s most established artists and craftspeople. I congratulate each of the artists, designers and craftspeople involved, together with Craft ACT CEO Rachael Coghlan and her team.
Dr Sarah Schmidt
Director, Canberra Museum and Gallery | The Nolan Collection