Care and focus from top craft artists

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Margaret Brown, “Bush Apartments” 1-2, 2020.

Craft / “c/o Craft ACT: 2020 Members Exhibition”, Craft ACT: Craft + Design Centre, North Building, 180 London Circuit, Canberra, until December 12. Open Tuesday-Friday, 10am-5pm and Saturdays 12pm-4pm. Reviewed by.MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

CRAFT ACT organises the extensive festival Design Canberra, currently underway, of which this exhibition is one of around 200 events.

The theme for this year is CARE, leading to the unusual title of the exhibition. It is a large exhibition: 99 works are on display, with a wide diversity of materials. Glen Adamson, curator, writer and historian from the USA and author of the catalogue essay, points out that many exhibitors are “focused on the connective potential of the objects they make”. He makes the point that craft is a balancing act between limited resources and how they can be used to best effect.

The exhibiting artists are working at the top of their fields. Canberra is privileged to see such a range of work that is of consistently high quality.

Bev Hogg, “Beak and Trousers” 2020. Photo: Brenton McGeachie.

Hannah Gason is showing an ethereal and calming work of pale, coloured blocks of layered glass, balanced by jumbled calligraphic marks titled “Reach”.

Readers may have seen a small pile of folded glass blankets, created by Kirstie Rea as the icon for the festival. A refined and finely made “cupboard” (by Zeljko Markov) holds several miniature folded blankets in pale, pastel colours hemmed with deeper coloured edges. Rea’s work resonates with the comforting warmth of childhood.

Canberra-based artists, like many other Australians, are concerned about the environment, and the ways in which disasters such as fires impact our lives. Margaret Brown is showing two porcelain vessels titled “Bush Apartments” which could be a stark reminder of the bushfires in the coastal region in which she lives. The walls of one in matt black are leafless tree trunks. The second vessel, in matt white, features trunks with lush foliage. Brown’s work is finely made and always interesting and understated.

Rolf Barfoed “Lamina” shelves.

Sometimes the impact is good, and Luna Ryan is exhibiting a work in recycled Blackwood crystal, bronze and wood. The glass and bronze elements are castings of opened seedpods “Flindersia Australis”, an expression of renewal. The timber is a recycled part of a lid of a chocolate box from 1954. This is delicate and gentle work, and has led to a renewal of an earlier practice for this glass worker.

Some exhibitors are taking the opportunity to explore new or different ideas. Sarah Murphy, widely known for her silver jewellery, has created triangles and pyramids from stainless steel to create “Connect”.

Valerie Kirk, internationally respected as a tapestry weaver, is showing a long necklace in painted paper; Ximena Briceno, who is better known for her delicate, filigree silver jewellery, is showing a long necklace and bracelet made from the bus tickets she collected from her daily bus trips between Queanbeyan and Canberra.

Bev Hogg’s large, bossy bird keeps a beady eye over the whole show. “Beak & Trousers – One Of The Backyard Mob” is surely the dominant male and gives viewers a good laugh with his open beak – is he singing or squawking? You decide.

This exhibition requires time, but will reward audiences with its excellence.

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