Emerging Contemporaries – 2016

11 February – 26 March 2016

Simon Azzopardi, ANU, School of Art, Gold & Silver Workshop; Robin Clancy, Sturt School for Wood; Saxon Crinis, Sturt School for Wood; Angela Giuliani, JamFactory Associate; Tundi-Rose Hammond, ANU, School of Art, Textiles Workshop; Mahala Hill, ANU, School of Art, Ceramics Workshop; Maija Frankovich, Design Centre Enmore; Sara Lindsay, University of Tasmania; Lachlan McLellan, RMIT; Kieren Karritpul McTaggart; Pia Nemec, ANU, School of Art, Furniture Workshop; Margaret Kemarre Ross; Josh Rummukainen, UC, Faculty of Arts and Design; Wayne Simon; and Madisyn Zabel, ANU, School of Art, Glass Workshop.

Wayne Simon, Perception ring, hand forged sterling silver ,Echidna quills, 2015. Image courtesy of the artist

Emerging Contemporaries – 2016 by Jess Oliver

Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre's Emerging Contemporaries 2016 exhibition showcases the diversity of contemporary craft and design practice in Australia. The practitioners represented in this exhibition are from across the nation, and for the first time in its history, Emerging Contemporaries includes the work of three Aboriginal artists.

A common theme in Emerging Contemporaries 2016 is the increasingly blurred boundaries between craft and design practice; driven by the increasing accessibility of digital technology, as well as recent consumer trends valuing handmade and bespoke objects. Whilst the use of digital technology in craft practice is not new, it's growing accessibility and early adoption by emerging practitioners results in an increasingly high level fluency, and understanding of the possibilities and conceptual dimensions such technologies can add to craft practice.

Digital technologies are central in the works of Pia Nemec, Sara Lindsay and Madisyn Zabel. Nemec's Faceted Table (2015) is part of a larger body of furniture work that combines computer aided design (CAD) with precise machine work and hand finishing. By utilising CAD in the design process, Nemec generated precise angle calculations, with an architectural influence and a minimalist aesthetic. Similarly, Lindsay's work, Interplay (2015), uses digital fabrication technologies combined with careful handwork to create harmonic, playful pieces that can be easily manipulated and engaged with by the user. Zabel's work, Multistable Perception (scale) (2015), uses cast glass and digitally designed wireframe drawings in a purely conceptual manner. Multistable Perception (scale) experiments with how new and traditional technologies intercept within Zabel's practice, and encourage the viewer to participate in an active investigation of the complexities of perception.

Architectural influences are evident in the work of Nemec, Angela Giuliani and Maija Frankovich. Giuliani's Pull-A-Part bracelets (2015), inspired by architectures integration of many different materials, combine traditional and non-traditional materials to create wearable forms. With an element of interaction, the Pull-A-Part bracelets allow the wearer to interchange internal colours and materials according to personal taste. Frankovich's, Sentinel I, II and III pendants (2015) are influenced by George Orwell's seminal novel, Nineteen Eighty Four, and examine the relationship between surveillance and architecture. Frankovich uses concepts of weight and negative space to evoke Soviet Era Brutalist architecture and its associated totalitarianism.

Industrial design graduates, Josh Rummukainen and Lachlan McLellan, present prototypes which reflect the sector's growing interest in sustainability and craftsmanship, respectively. Rummukainen's Izumi (2015) faucet encourages water preservation. Created almost solely using digital technologies such as 3-D printing, Rummukainen has developed a sleek water flow system that uses two progressive solenoids (tightly-packed helical coils) to dynamically manage a microprocessor which maintains exact water temperature and pressure. The resulting water flow is designed to create beautiful, hour-glass shaped patterns which heighten user awareness of this important resource. As a designer-maker, McLellan takes a more process-based approach with his Slip lamps (2014), incorporating the traditional technique of slip-cast ceramics. The result is a series of warm, beautifully weighted and balanced table lamps with a deceptively simple locking mechanism.

Like McLellan, Simon Azzopardi also takes a process-based approach with his Katto Knife prototype (2015), which is created from a single flat piece of steel. Cleverly designed to create the minimum amount of material wastage, the Katto knives are formed using a press and reflect Azzopardi's interest in developing a series of simple folds to create 3-D objects from a flat plane.

Operating within quite traditional disciplines, textiles graduate, Tundi-Rose Hammond; and ceramics, graduate Mahala Hill, are interested in experimenting with materials and techniques. Hammond's anthropomorphic "Olaf" the XL coil creature. (2015) combines the traditional technique of coiling with unorthodox materials such as packing foam and zip-ties, resulting in a playful and charismatic body of work that begs viewer engagement. Hill's installation, Bioluminescence (2015) is equally experimental. Drawing visual reference from the sea and its unknown creatures, Hill uses various slip-dipped organic materials to create sculptural work of a delicate, organic quality.

Robin Clancy and Saxon Crinis show an ongoing commitment to traditional ideals of craftsmanship and technique, as well consideration of the used environment. Crinis' Low Sun Room Chair (2015) was made for hot Australian summers and utilises cane sheeting for the airflow which it provides. Designed with a distinctly mid-century aesthetic, this character-filled work comes with the promise of lazy summer days and dreamy, cicada-filled nights. Conversely, Clancy's Low Folding Table (2015) is much more utilitarian, featuring a clever folding mechanism which allows the piece to be folded flat after use for easy storage. Influenced by Japanese joinery and philosophies of space, the Low Folding Table was specifically designed for use in small spaces, where more permanent furniture setups may be impractical.

Importantly, Emerging Contemporaries 2016 features the work of three Aboriginal Australian artists: Wayne Simon, Kieren Karritupul McTaggart and Margaret Kemarre Ross. In the works presented by these artists, there is a strong connection to culture and land. McTaggart, a textile designer from the Merrepen artist community in the Northern Territory, presents Fishnet on Linen (2013), a series of screen-printed lengths of linen depicting stylised patterns based on traditional fish-nets. Similarly, Ross' Women's Ceremony of Bush Medicine (2015) features the artist's original paintings of native medicinal flora digitally printed on a silk scarf. Women's Ceremony of Bush Medicine embodies and celebrates a traditional medical system, thousands of years old. Finally, jeweller Wayne Simon is interested in using precious metals with indigenous, organic materials; such as kangaroo leather and echidna quills. Perception Ring (2015), which combines sterling silver and echidna quills, is particularly evocative, and highlights the quills as a connection to land – to be admired and treasured.

Emerging Contemporaries 2016 represents a cross-section of the new wave of craft and design practitioners who will help to shape the future of contemporary craft and design in Australia, and internationally. New technologies, globalisation and urgent interest in sustainability are changing the craft and design landscape on a profound level, and it will be exciting to see the paths these emerging practitioners will forge.

Jess Oliver is a writer and art critic with a degree in anthropology and art history, and a Masters in communications. She has been published in The Canberra Times, Sydney Morning Herald and Ceramics: Art and Perception. In 2015, Jess was the ANCA Critic-In-Residence. When she’s not writing about art, she’s talking about it - on the 2XX FM show she co-presents, Culture Space.