Review: Women and Modern Australian printmaking

Guest contributor Belinda Hungerford visits the Art Gallery of NSW exhibition Modern Impressions: Australian Prints from the Collection.

Modernism arrived in Australia at about the same time as other parts of the world and reached all aspects of Australian culture, with its crowning glory arguably the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Modernism was especially embraced by women with its designs quickly adopted in the domestic sphere through soft furnishings, glassware, crockery, furniture, lighting and women’s clothing. Publications such as the Home magazine were also instrumental in promoting the modernist aesthetic. Modern art began to appear on the walls with women not just admirers but practitioners too.

Ethel L Spowers Special edition 1936 colour linocut on thin ivory laid tissue 28.2 x 22.4 cm image; 35.4 x 25.7 cm sheet (irreg.) Art Gallery of New South Wales Purchased 1977

During the 1920s and 1930s women dominated the modern art movement with various speculations relating to social change as to why. In conjunction with the loss of many men during WWI, the profitability of art-making had declined between the wars resulting in a lessening number of male artists. This, in tandem with the growth of social freedom, a development particularly beneficial for women, meant that more and more women were able to pursue careers with many choosing an artistic life. Those with independent means also took the opportunity to travel and study abroad. Read more

Object stories: Illusory ceramics by Jin Eui Kim

By Penny Craswell

South Korean-born, Cardiff-based ceramicist Jin Eui Kim has created a series of ceramics using a layering technique that results in patterns with an optical illusion effect. I discovered his work at the Contemporary Ceramics Centre in London and was immediately impressed by the precision of the pieces, and balance of form and patternation.

OPject Instability no.9, D: 30.8 cm × H: 6.7 cm, 2015, Jin Eui Kim
OPject Instability no.9, D: 30.8 cm × H: 6.7 cm, 2015, Jin Eui Kim

Jin throws the pots on the wheel and then applies paint in 18 tonal bands from black through to grey and white to create a distinct stripe that deceives the eye, playing with concave and convex shapes. The occasional red or pink band serves as a highlight, while the finish is matte rather than gloss, providing a muted effect that is subtle and beautiful. Read more

Review: Scented Intoxication exhibition by Lyn and Tony

By Penny Craswell

Lyn Balzer and Tony Perkins are a Sydney-based photography and designer/maker duo with an international sensibility, whose works are nevertheless deeply rooted in Australia. Their new exhibition at Sydney’s Australian Design Centre, called Scented Intoxication, features works made from a range of materials in two simple colours: black and white. But it is scent that is the most extraordinary feature of this exhibition.

Gallery view, Scented Intoxication. Photo: Australian Design Centre
Gallery view, Scented Intoxication. Photo: Supplied by Australian Design Centre

When you enter the exhibition space, it hits you right away, a beautiful, heady perfume that is not sweet or perfume-like in the traditional sense, but is reminiscent of burnt wood or native Australian vegetation or both. Lyn and Tony worked with French-born Australian-based Elise Pioch Balzac of Maison Balzac to create two scents for two scented candles: L’Obscurite (darkness) is a black candle with a scent inspired by one of Lyn and Tony’s photographs of a sea cave in Kiama NSW. Elise interpreted the image in a scent inspired by volcanic rocks using tree resin, birch tar and red cedar. The other scent is L’Etrangete (strangeness), a white candle with a scent inspired by another photograph by Lyn and Tony, this time of a waterfall in a lush rainforest. Elise interpreted this image of sunlight in greenery as a scent with lemon myrtle, native ginger and hemp. Read more

Shelter Hacks event as part of Fugitive Structures

This post is really more of a thank you note for the Shelter Hacks event I curated on Wednesday – to the Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation‘s Gene Sherman who is a continual inspiration, and to Danielle, Sophie and the rest of the team for being great to work with. Also thanks to the speakers: Fenella Kernebone for being a wonderful moderator, NSW Architects Registrar Timothy Horton for giving his time and expertise (as well as a good dose of humour) and Heidi Axelsen and Hugo Moline of MAPAA, the artist/architecture duo behind Owner Occupy at SCAF for sharing their ideas which were the inspiration for the evening’s discussion.

Tim Horton, Hugo Moline, Heidi Axelsen and Fenella Kernebone at Shelter Hacks. Photo: Penny Craswell
Tim Horton, Hugo Moline, Heidi Axelsen and Fenella Kernebone at Shelter Hacks. Photo: Penny Craswell

The panel discussion turned out to be a fantastic opportunity to throw around ideas about shelter, new housing models, how cities grow, the role of architects and policy-makers in creating human-centred dwellings. Read more

Review: Fugitive Structures architecture pavilion

By Penny Craswell

I have been a long admirer of Gene Sherman, one of the most important figures in Sydney’s art scene. She was well known for Sherman Galleries when she shifted gears to open the not-for-profit Sherman Contemporary Art Foundation (or SCAF) around eight years ago. More recently, Gene has turned her interest to the architecture pavilion, commissioning architects and artists to create garden pavilions and installations as part of the Fugitive Structures program. In this, the third year of the series, SCAF presents two works: Sway, a garden pavilion by Israeli architecture collective SRMZ (Matanya Sack, Uri Reicher, Liat Muller and Eyal Zur); and Owner-Occupy, an installation by Sydney-based architecture/artist duo Hugo Moline and Heidi Axelsen.

Sway from above
Sway from above

Gene’s connection to Israel (where her daughter lives) was the catalyst to commissioning SRMZ, who were selected from a pool of architects, briefed to create a pavilion inspired by Sukkot, an annual festival where families erect a sukkah – a temporary shelter commemorating the Old Testament story of the Israelites sheltering in the wilderness en route to ‘The Promised Land’ . Their response, Sway, is an ephemeral structure whose shape references the tents of the nomadic Bedouins, built with steel, an agricultural fabric and stitched with red string. The pavilion leads the visitor through the garden under a series of arches that balance fine stitching with a sense of being incomplete and mobile. Read more

National Gallery of Victoria announces Department of Contemporary Design and Architecture

By Penny Craswell

Some excellent news for those in the design and architecture community came from Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria (NGV) last week – the establishment of a Department of Contemporary Design and Architecture. Institutional support of design in Australia has been patchy at best over the years, with excellent initiatives such as the State of Design (also Victoria), scrapped, while ideas for a Museum of Design a la London have never gained the critical government or institutional support needed to get them off the ground.

"I Dips Me Lid" by John Wardle Architects is the first NGV Commission for Ephemeral Architecture
“I Dips Me Lid” by John Wardle Architects is the first NGV Commission for Ephemeral Architecture

Design and architecture inhabit an unusual space. In many ways, the showing of work in a gallery or museum (or even festival) setting is not required, especially when you consider the strength of the actual industries themselves – Cochlear bringing the latest design innovation to the world, global architecture firms like Woods Bagot competing on the world stage and firms from Europe and North America turning to Australia during dark economic times. Read more

The design writer’s postcard from Adelaide

By Penny Craswell

Great design and architecture are in abundance in Adelaide which I dicovered during a recent visit. The city is completely new to me – I knew the Jam Factory’s reputation for good design and that some fantastic architecture firms – Woods Bagot, Hassell and Woodhead (now GHD Woodhead) – had begun there, but I was otherwise unsure what to expect. The trip came about when, having commissioned me to write an essay for the catalogue of the Jam Factory’s Glass: Art Design Architecture exhibition, Director Brian Parkes invited me to the opening.

Glass artist Tom Moore's work at Jam Factory Glass exhibition. Photography: Penny Craswell.
Glass artist Tom Moore’s work at Jam Factory Glass exhibition. Photography: Penny Craswell.



The exhibition, the catalogue and the opening did not disappoint. With studios offering an associate program in ceramics, glass, metal and furniture, and some great exhibitions, as well as a retail shop selling design objects, the Jam Factory is an important organisation for design both in Adelaide and nationally. In addition, Brian – an old friend from his Sydney days – has added his love of design, as well as extensive contacts in the field (recent appointments include Jon Goulder and Daniel Emma) and great curatorial skills to the mix. Read more

Review: Carousel installation by Carsten Höller

By Penny Craswell

At Melbourne’s National Gallery of Victoria, a golden carousel has been installed in the forecourt, the latest version of a series of works by Belgian artist Carsten Höller that interrogate and confound human perception.

Carsten Höller German 1961–, worked in Sweden 2000– Golden mirror carousel 2014 powder-coated and painted steel, gold-plated stainless steel, tinite-plated stainless steel, brass, mirrors, light bulbs, electric motors, control unit, power unit, sandbags 480.0 x 745.0 cm diameter (variable) Collection of the artist, Stockholm and Gagosian Gallery, New York © Carsten Höller. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery Photo: Christian Markel
Carsten Höller, German 1961–, worked in Sweden 2000–, Golden mirror carousel 2014, powder-coated and painted steel, gold-plated stainless steel, tinite-plated stainless steel, brass, mirrors, light bulbs, electric motors, control unit, power unit, sandbags, 480.0 x 745.0 cm diameter (variable), Collection of the artist, Stockholm and Gagosian Gallery, New York, © Carsten Höller. Courtesy Gagosian Gallery, Photo: Christian Markel

The work is clad in gold coloured mirror. Instead of horses, you sit on a gold seat suspended by gold chains. The usual dizzying ride of a merry-go-round is slowed here to a gradual revolution, with seats spaced so that, even while riding the machine, you feel solitary. The floor underfoot does not rotate, and the centrepiece rotates in the opposite direction, creating a gently confounding experience that is not only reflective in the sense of providing a series of mirrored images, but also reflective in that it inspires a state of reflection – a slowing down of the fast pace of life. Read more

Design writings: Customisation and collectible editions in design

Design writings: Customisation and collectible editions in design

“This dichotomy points to a shift in the design market in two quite distinct directions – that is, the embrace of digital production allowing for more responsive, ‘co-designed’ products within an essentially mass-production process, or limited edition commissions that present design as a highly collectible commodity parallel to the art market.”

Fleur Watson’s article in the Saturday Paper explores customisation, collectible editions and the appeal of storytelling in design through topics from Marc Newson’s appointment at Apple, through to Libby Sellers Gallery in London and the Broached Commissions limited edition designs.

Read the full article here.