discover, define, develop, deliver

5 November – 19 December 2015

Sally Blake, Ximena Briceno, Margaret Brown), Lisa Cahill, Sarit Cohen, Judi Elliot , Dianne Firth , Robert Foster , Cathy Franzi , Ruth Hingston,Bev Hogg, Eugenie Keefer Bell , Elizabeth Kelly, Valerie Kirk, Gail Nichols , Elizabeth Paterson (ACT), Kaye Pemberton , Sharon Peoples, Kirstie Rea, Barbara Rogers, Niklavs Rubenis, Harriet Schwarzrock, Amanda Stuart  with Hannah Hoyne, Nancy Tingey, Kensuke Todo, Annie Trevillian and Monique Van Nieuwland.


Robert Foster 2015 Baroque Squash 2 Image: courtesy of the artist

discover define develop deliver by Glen Martin

“The artistic process seems to be mythologized quite a lot into something far greater than it actually is. It is just hard labor. Inspiration is a word used by people who aren't really doing anything. I go into my office everyday...and work. Whether I feel like it or not is irrelevant." Nick Cave (2014)i

Inspiration remains the most discussed piece of the creative puzzle, venerated in articulating the process between nothing and something. The idea of inspiration and how it lands upon the anointed is what separates the artist from the mortal, the legitimising agent that creates a sense of awe in the viewer.

And yet, inspiration is the most fleeting step in the creative process. While required, inspiration gets a lot of press that its partner, work, does not. Work is the ugly duckling in the shadow of inspiration’s star. And in terms of importance, perhaps it’s time to speak a little more reverently about simple work.

What defines the truly resonant object is a unification of inspiration with process. The revision, the testing, the failures, the knowledge that comes from years of refined endeavour. The real artistry comes from the most prosaic piece of the creative puzzle.

This year’s annual accredited professional members exhibition, discover define develop deliver, asked artists to display a signature piece alongside an item that gives insight into the process behind the work. It reveals the breadth of engagement across the Craft ACT community, the vastly differing relationships between idea and the reality of a final object for each of these makers, and evidences the skill of these artists in an assortment of wildly varied pieces.

The eclecticism of discover define develop deliver is an indication of the idiosyncratic route inspiration takes- that, and the range of lived experience that has been poured into each work on display.

The clarity in Kaye Pemberton’s Tidelining belies the calming beauty of the form- tiny pieces of washed-up ephemera, shells and coral sticks rendered in ceramics, objects familiar to any beach comber, yet elevated in this instance to something still, sleek and lovely.

At the other end of the fragility spectrum is Robert Foster’s Zen Thrust, Baroque Squash and Totem Inspired Piston Fucking. Taking their cue from Foster’s Squash series of multi-purpose vessels available under his Fink Design imprint, Foster has extended the process of compressing cylindrical objects into something mechanised, masculine and playful.

Niklavs Rubenis’ 5 Cups are a different proposition in terms of sonic volume- where Foster’s work is loud, Rubenis’ 5 stunning vessels crafted from douglas fir are quiet and still. Spun from wood located in his father’s studio and transformed years after they were collected, these pieces are deliberate and charming.

Then there is the kind of inspiration evidenced by Sharon People’s quite remarkable Golden Lungs. The artist grew up in a house insulated with brown amosite asbestos, and lost her sister to disease brought on by its discovery. This is a finely balanced and expertly crafted work of real elegance. Tracing loss and memory, the golden tinges are offset against the cutting black at the centre of the shape. It is a moving memorial to a lost sibling, to family, and a reminder of those houses in those cities that hide this terrible secret behind their walls.

For something completely different, consider Judi Elliott’s Architecture of the Mind- a riot of on-point Australiana, with a colour scheme recalling both Ken Done and Howard Arkley, a central sunken corrugated area and a form so much more robust than we might associate with a work of glass. Or what about Ruth Hingston’s Land 4 Sale @ the farm gate, an embroidered imagining of what goes on behind the glossy promotional signs announcing a new suburb- effortlessly Canberran, this is a canny take on the emptiness behind the advertising curtain of the new suburban dream.

And then there’s Kirstie Rae’s Solo Pursuit, which speaks less to place and more to time, presenting a evocation of the type so many of us will recall- the wind flowing through the hair as we hurtle down hills on bicycles. Stand behind that trike, admire that sheath of speed rendered into glass, and catch a breath of the fan- as the title suggests, a memory shared by many, but experienced alone.

“You know, an idea is just an idea. There seems to… the kind of epiphanies that you have, like the little sudden bursts of light, they’re very small and they’re very short and it’s the pursuit of the idea that’s the important thing. . . .

Ideas are such are a little overrated really; it’s the work behind the idea that’s the important thing.” Nick Cave, 2013ii

The relationship between the final pieces on show in discover define develop deliver and the wall of inspiration might appear tenuous at first, but this is the way inspiration works; specifically, a confluence of remembered and half remembered thoughts, some organic and some stolen, invented or lived. The path between inspiration and final object is each of the 27 makers involved. In showing both the idea and the realised end point, this show reveals the trace between the two that gives an intimate sense of the makers captured herein. They are both the link and filter through which the initial idea has passed and the final product has been born. It’s a process the audience cannot see in shows of only final objects, and it’s one of the reasons why discover define develop deliver is a fascinating exhibition. To see how the brief has been embraced by practitioners who have utilised this opportunity to break clear of their established patterns and create something specific and new is a delight. This is a show of ideas and practice, the ephemeral moment of inspiration and the work that gives the idea its real purpose- these objects of discover define develop deliver.

Glen Martin is a PhD candidate at ANU Centre for Art History and Art Theory