Residency inspires a successful, mature exhibition

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“Namadgi Gardening Gloves, 2020-21” by Sharon Peoples. Photo: 5 Foot Photography.

Craft / “Between Earth and Sky”, Craft ACT Craft + Design Centre, until May 22. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE.

CRAFT ACT has had a close relationship with ACT Parks and Conservation for more than 15 years through its artist-in-residence program.

The program has been an ongoing source of artistic and personal transformation to many artists, crafts practitioners, and designers, both national and international. After the devastating fires in Namadgi in the summer of 2020 Craft ACT CEO Rachel Coghlan said: “[The relationship] has buoyed our spirits, renewed our deep respect for the team at ACT parks and made us more determined than ever to sustain this valuable residency into the future.”

“Namadgi Gardening Gloves – Yellow Daisies and Bluebells” by Sharon Peoples, 2021. Photo: Brenton McGeachie.

Due to the fires and the pandemic the 2020 residency program were delayed. The participants – Sharon Peoples (textiles) and Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello (glass) are experienced artists and late in 2020 spent three weeks at the Gudgenby Ready-Cut Cottage in Namadgi National Park. They put this comprehensive exhibition together in six weeks – a demanding timetable.

For me, this exhibition is one of the most successful coming from the residencies. No doubt this is due to the maturity of the artists.

Sharon Peoples is showing a wall of embroidered gloves, in cotton and polyester thread. These “gardening gloves” explore plants and gardens – actual gardens, both private and public – and gardens of the imagination. The gloves have a fragility that reflects the state of our environment – the stitching evokes repairing and mending. Embroidered birds and Bogong Moths flit through the gloves – another important element in the environment.

A second component of the artists-in-residence program is research undertaken by the artists at a cultural institution in Canberra. This year it was the National Museum of Australia. Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello investigated some of the museum’s woven fibre collections, with the intention of collecting grasses and other fibres to weave and eventually replicate them in hot, blown glass.

“Caring for this country: nest #1” by Jenni Kemarre Martiniello, 2021.

Martiniello made the “Namadgi series”, small blocks of cast and coldworked glass. Splashes of colour are created when light shines through. These are delicate and capture some of the magic of Namadgi.

Martiniello is also showing several vessels of hot blown glass. “Caring for country: nesting rock/water carrier” in hot blown and slumped glass with tall sedge rushes and feathers is for me, an outstanding example. “Kangaroo Grass Coolamon” also in hot blown and slumped glass with canes evokes the bundles of grasses and sedge she collected.

Martiniello was given some advice before the residency from a fellow artist: “Retreat, Reflect and Rejoice”. The work in this exhibition represents these principles and clearly show how valuable these residencies are. Time away from the work bench, spent in a different environment is incredibly valuable to artists. It can set artists on a new path, help them to develop new ideas and work with new materials.

There is no doubt that these artists will continue to make references to this time in the ensuing years.

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