Review / Fun and play in big WA craft show

Craft / “Ap-ro-pos”. At Bilk Gallery, Palmerston Lane, Manuka, until March 24. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

FIVE artists from WA have rented Bilk Gallery to show their work in Canberra. Some have exhibited previously in Canberra and this is an opportunity to examine the inevitable changes in their work.

I found a strong sense of fun and play in this exhibition, from all exhibitors. As well being established artists, they show confidence and innovation in the use of their chosen materials.

A Remida remake brooch by Christel van de Laan Brooch.

Christel van der Laan combines a range of materials to create brooches, rings and earrings. Plastic, acrylic, shells, ceramic honeycomb, antique buttons and sterling silver have all been used in her brooches. Several are architectural in form, particularly “Aligned”, on which dynamic verticals run across the oval face. “Rich”, is a more formal work with antique cut brass breads set into a lattice pattern over ceramic honeycomb. It is not only the beads which give this brooch its own antique or vintage feel.

A bracelet by Brenda Ridgewell.

The space both on and beyond the body continues to fascinate Brenda Ridgewell. Her work is articulated and also refers to architectural forms, both in its making and its appearance. The names of bracelets – I would refer to them as bangles – and brooches hint at the forms created. Made from sterling silver and often 9ct gold, they are carefully made, sophisticated and elegant works.

“Tales from Bird Island” necklace by Helena Bogucki.

Bird Island, off the coast of northern WA, inspires Helena Bogucki. She also uses found materials and explores collected narratives, which she combines with detailed research to create her work. Three tiny shell purses are threaded on to banana fibre, enamelled and engraved to form small pendants. Banana fibre evokes the tropics as do the purses themselves. She is also showing a range of enamelled copper discs, in different sizes, which I find rather cumbersome – but perhaps they are not meant to be worn.

Necklace scraps by Claire Townsend.

Claire Townsend is exhibiting work that honours the memory of her grandmothers and considers their embroidery, and the time, process and materiality of that craft. Surfaces are hand fabricated with Ibsa inlay (giving an appearance similar to woven fabric) with decorative corners – and immediately remind the viewer of embroidered doilies and table linen. I particularly enjoyed these fragments of “embroidered” fabric, showing the continued use and wear of the original pieces.

“Bushfire Neckpiece” by Robin Wells.

Viewers are invited to consider what happens on the edges of our cities and the nearby bushland through Robin Wells’ work, which explores the changing landscape along coastal WA. The names of the works are explicit: “Bushfire” – a pendant which seems to be a bundle of tiny twigs; and “Sprawl” another pendant showing the carving up of the countryside.

These works contrast the fragility of their form with the relative strength of sterling silver, which has been oxidised to blacken the surface.

I do not know why the artists chose the title for the exhibition, or what it means. It is a large exhibition and I think I little judicious editing would have made it stronger. However, it is an excellent opportunity to see the work of five such confident and experienced artists.

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