Review / Robertson’s ‘thoughtful’ way with materials

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ALTHOUGH it’s rather a cliché, Christopher Robertson is a polymath. His artistic practice ranges across the media of wood, furniture and metal, jewellery and flatware.  

This exhibition, which rather crowds the small Bilk space, includes works in all areas.

The main feature is “Sofa ‘32° 00’ 51.34”S 121° 46’ 38.39”E‘” (2009-2017). The seat is deep and the back wraps around the sitter. Both are covered in felted, woven wool and silk fabric by Jennifer Robertson. The organic form of the work invites viewers to sit and relax.

Robertson is also exhibiting a range of tiny models of chairs, which are similar in shape to the sofa. He uses curved, organic shapes with curved backs that envelope the sitter as well as smooth, round stones as seats, and one being used as footstool. The pale, matt surfaces of the stones reflect the grey of the upholstery and the pale cream/white of the backs.

The shapes of the model chairs vary, and are similar in their design: an irregular seat and back, which follows the curved seat. The two pieces are joined with unobtrusive stainless steel supports, that are also the legs.

Eight small low, round tables are also being exhibited are prototypes. White tops and timber tops sit above stainless steel legs finished with a number of different options for feet. Robertson combines the clean, stark lines of white acrylic coated RFR with feet of hoop pine, ebonised eucalypt and recycled ash, and adds the warmth and texture of timber. The tables are functional with a touch of whimsy. Two special tables have red ash tops with five widely splayed feet, made from a rare collection of wood from Parliament House.

Flatware or cutlery is ever-changing and Robertson is exhibiting three sets of knife, fork and spoon, and one individual knife. The sets are in monel, fine silver and stainless steel. The handle of the knife is in oxidised monel and stainless steel, and is elegant and comfortable to use.

I felt that the cutlery sets are still in experimental stage, although I understand the designs have been in regular use.

A series of brooches with similar organic shapes show Robertson’s care and experience in making jewellery. Surfaces are raised, inlaid, perforated and polished. From a variety of materials they are superb.

Many of the works in this exhibition are similar to a collection of work submitted by Robertson as part of his practice-lead research for his Degree of Philosophy at the ANU. The work is thoughtful, demonstrating a unique way of looking at materials and form.

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