Emerging Contemporaries – 2015

13 February – 28 March 2015

Jasmine Targett, Richilde Flavell, Marina Hanser, Adrian Olasau, Rohan Goradia, Rene Linssen, Chelsea Lemon, Sarah Murphy, Kelly Austin.


Chelsea Lemon, Triangulation Chair, 2015, American White Oak, Edible Plants. Image Courtesy of the artist

'Current wave: the new generation of innovation' by Zoya Patel

Innovation is key to design in all its forms – from the construction of large scale architectural projects, through to industrial design and craft that influences our more intimate experiences of space, objects and time.

Craft ACT's annual selected exhibition, Emerging Contemporaries, showcases innovation in its fledgling stages, demonstrating the unique and exciting work currently being developed by recent graduates. In 2015, Emerging Contemporaries comprises ten artists, whose work is diverse and varied, but connected by this theme of innovation – each piece demonstrating a desire for continually pushing at the boundaries of design thinking and methodology.

Jasmine Targett's work interrogates the impact of climate change on our environment, whilst reinterpreting traditional craft materials and techniques. Her work challenges the viewer with perspective – how much do we really see, and where are our blind spots when it comes to climate change?

In contrast, Richilde Flavell invites a sense of familiarity with her ceramics works, connecting with the traditional technique of wheel-throwing to conjure up a sense of comfort and nostalgia. Using her childhood experiences to influence her choice in colours and materials, Flavell's pieces are tender in outlook, and accomplished in design.

The power of design to incite emotion is another common motif running throughout Emerging Contemporaries. Marina Hanser's wall-mounted works examine human responses to grief, and have been created using 'a hybrid process combining traditional kiln casting, cold working and pate de verre techniques'. Marina's research has been extensive; 'I have worked metaphorically with the idea of wounding and healing, drawing influence from scientific and medical imagery and concepts.'

Adrian Olasau's furniture is built around the sensory pleasure of touch. Olasau says, 'At times, we can miss subtle details when we look at a piece of furniture. This is where your hands get involved.' The connection between the elegant aesthetic of his pieces combined with the tactile experience of using them causes Olasau's designs to enter a new level of sophistication.

Rohan Goradia's furniture designs are equally sophisticated, but with an authenticity that emphasises the natural grain and texture of his materials. Goradia originally trained as an architect, and his industrial design work allows him to reapply his skills on a 'human scale,' as he puts it. His pieces are stripped back and simple, but with an elegance that demonstrates the thought that has impacted on each element of the design.

The work of Rene Linssen is centred on functionality and ergonomic design. The POD mortar and pestle is ingeniously designed to be both small and functional, and to eradicate the issues of cleaning and cumbersome weight that usually plague the mortar and pestle as a tool. In addition, Linssen's VIVRE stools are made entirely of flat sheet material, and are lightweight and easy to store. These pieces have a commercial viability to them that demonstrates savvy design thinking that translates easily to actual use.

In contrast to the more practical and functional industrial design of Olasau, Linssen and Goradia, Zoe Brand's BLANK BADGE project attempts to drill into the purpose of the humble badge, as an object that implies a message, identity marker, or motif. Brand conducted the project with initially 60 volunteers, who were invited to wear a blank badge and allow others to engage with the object. 'By taking something as cheap and ubiquitous as a badge and through these actions of erasure, intervention and their eventual display, I am elevating these common objects to a status far beyond their intended function. Exploiting the very notion of perceived value.'

Value for our environment and our relationship to nature plays a part in the work of Chelsea Lemon. Lemon's Triangulated Chair incorporates living food plants into the frame, teasing out a theme of interdependence and reliance between the natural world and human life. She says, 'The chair supports the body physically through the structure and mentally through the benefits of the healthy food plants. Yet this relationship is only maintained if the user is willing to take care of the plants, give to gain.'

Sarah Murphy's Mantle for another time also explores sustainability, alongside a glimpse into the traditional practice of burying the dead shrouded in a protective mantle, made from precious metal. Hanging on the wall, the blanket is made from carefully beaten metal discs, which ripple and shimmer alluringly. On closer inspection, however, the true nature of the piece is revealed – not precious metal, but beer bottle caps, carefully crafted and given a new life. Claire Capel-Stanley writes of the piece, 'Murphy's piece makes palpable a different kind of timelessness: the disposable and ephemeral transformed into something of ritual significance.'

Despite making what appear to be static objects, Kelly Austin is preoccupied with the idea of movement in groupings of functional ceramic objects, a concept she is exploring through a Master of Philosophy at the Australian National University. Her wheel-thrown pieces are arrestingly beautiful in their simplicity, and remain functional, designed for use more than display. 'This work is very much about direct and physical use, movement through a range of hands and situations and then a moment of pause before the cycle begins again', Austin says.

The artists showcased in Emerging Contemporaries are fingering the pulse of contemporary design in Australia. Looking at the exhibition as a whole brings to light a picture of what our design future might look like – unique, versatile, and boundary-pushing, while still retaining the authenticity and traditional techniques of our past.

Importantly, Emerging Contemporaries highlights the fact that the careful artistry of craft and design is burgeoning, and that emerging artists and designers are ensuring that Australia's design legacy will continue to grow and evolve into the future. Craft ACT continues to play an important role in fostering the talent of emerging designers, and championing craft and design as integral to our collective cultural experience.

Zoya Patel is a writer, editor and founder of Feminartsy, an online literature and arts journal.