Review / Minimalist, but come back for more

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‘Hill End reef,’ 2018, Julie Bradley, mixed media gouache and collage on timber screen.
CRAFT ACT proudly exclaims: ‘Place making is about designing with the past, present and future in mind, to develop identity and to increase social and cultural capital. Canberra is a place of makers who bring skills, knowledge, dedication and commitment to create their craft and nourish our community. This exhibition is the place to find them.’

Yes, that is all correct. Most of the best known craftspeople in Canberra are exhibiting.

I found the exhibition very minimalist –  numbers on plinths identify the works and viewers must pick up a sheet from the desk to find out who made what. The information on the sheet is minimal – the name of the artist, the name of the work, when it was made and the materials used and the price. Sometimes a little more information helps viewers. But perhaps I am being a little picky.

The exhibition is large – over 130 pieces, with over 70 artists represented. Many respond directly to the theme ‘place making’ but the remainder appear to have only a tenuous link.

Jennifer Robertson is showing an outstanding wrap titled ‘Fencelines & Paddocks’. From silk, cashmere and linen, it would be light, warm and comforting. This work evokes the patterns created both singly and together by the fences and paddocks that surround Canberra. While Barbara Rogers does not live in Canberra, two works titled ‘The Square 1 & 2’ speak to the straight lines and dots in Canberra’s inner urban design.

Kirstie Rea, ‘From a still point 2’, photo David Paterson
Bev Hogg engages us with her hard-cutting wit with ‘Big Wig’, a larger-than-life sulphur crested cockatoo, whose crest certainly looks as though it has been enlarged to match his name. White Cedar trees grow well in Canberra, and have strong leafstalks which Lissa de Sailles has used as a decorative top to a basket woven in sea grass and blue linen thread. Titled ‘Journey Basket’, perhaps it describes a journey from the coast to Canberra, and incorporates parts of both her old and new lives.

Kirstie Rea lives and works in Canberra and for many years has used the rural countryside for her inspiration. ‘From a still point 2’ depicts a view from a window. This is an evocative, haunting image that doesn’t tell us much about its location. The soft foliage might be from a bush garden, but it is enigmatic view.

Julie Bradley is showing ‘Hill End Reef’ – a five panel screen of mixed media on board. It is an ambitious work and I think it is successful.

The curves and straight lines, and building form of many buildings in Canberra are depicted in Chelsea Lemon’s ‘Geometric Canberra’, a lively and colourful work. Lemon is the 2018 Designer-in-Residence for the Design Canberra Festival and this is a signature piece for the Festival.

This impressive exhibition shows work from established artists and recent graduates. It demonstrates the qualities outlined by Craft ACT and is one of those exhibitions that one can visit several times and still see something new.

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Helen Musa
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