Vito Bila?s Petal Vessel.
Crossover Godwin Baum and Vito Bila Bilk Gallery For Contemporary Metal and Glass Until April 12
The finely honed skill of the craftsman, combined with an interest in the process of making and working with metal, are both qualities present in the work of artists Godwin Baum and Vito Bila.
Baum is a mature and experienced artist. He was born in Germany in 1955 but came to Australia in 1982. He then spent time travelling between Australia and Germany but has now settled in his birth country. During his time in Australia, Baum established enduring personal and professional links with well-known Australian silversmiths such as Marian Hosking, Susan Cohn and Carlier Makigawa.
Vito Bila?s Vessel Cluster #1.
Bila has been exhibiting professionally since his graduation from RMIT in 2001 and has been included in many exhibitions of Australian craft. Notably, he was included in the Art Gallery of South Australia's 2010 survey exhibition, Bravura: 21st Century Craft and Design. He is currently on the staff of the Fine Arts Department at Monash University.
Baum's jewellery is notable for its understated classic elegance and wearability. Baum follows the contemporary jewellery practice of emphasising design and craftsmanship rather than the value of the materials used. Nevertheless, he is appreciative of the inherent rarity of fine stones such as the star sapphires he uses in two of the rings in the exhibition.
In the larger of the two rings the setting is kept to a minimum, with the stone itself framed by a thin gold band and set off by raised silver shoulders that frame it on either side. A smaller star sapphire is also the centrepiece of a beautiful 18-carat gold ring flanked by two small rubies. An amethyst ring is in the same setting as the star sapphire, but in other rings such as the emerald ring and small amethyst ring, the stones are surrounded by a deeper gold surround with a silver hoop.
The use of both gold and silver together in contemporary jewellery confounds the dictum that one should wear either gold or silver but not both together. Combined in these rings, the lustre of each metal complements the other. In Baum's silver rings he also uses rose cut diamonds. Although only small, these single diamonds have brilliance because they are set in a silver surround that enhances rather than overwhelms them.
However, it is in the raised silver domed rings with their subtle burnished surface and deep lustre that the link with Bila is more clearly established. Both artists understand the qualities inherent in metals and both understand the skilled process of working with the materials, so that their surfaces magically reveal patinas, textures and patterns.
While developing innovative concepts in their work, both artists also acknowledge a debt to the past in the historical forms of objects and jewellery.
In this exhibition, Bila has created small groups of objects in silver, copper and stainless steel. He groups them so that a relationship between forms, colour and texture is established. In this way I am reminded of the subtle arrangements of ceramic objects in the still-life works of Gwyn Hanssen Pigott.
Bila is aware of the historical antecedents of the vessel and pays homage to its history as a domestic object and ritual vessel. His objects are non-functional, but history is part of their making through the artist's use of traditional silversmithing techniques in the making of their forms, and through the use of metals such as copper and silver.
It is in the textures and patinas, the undisguised welded seams, the irregularity of their edges and the scoring of their surfaces that these vessels become vehicles for the expression of a personal vision.
The small fine silver vessels in the work Stand III and the stunning piece called Tall Vessel can be seen perhaps as more emblematic of this awareness of the past. However, the marks and textures on their surfaces denote a more personal exchange between the artist and the process of fabrication. It is this expression that gives these works their vitality and energy.
Crumple Zone 1 and 2 are both groups of vessels in copper that also develop this exchange. Their surfaces reflect the exigencies of their making and this becomes a space for personal marking and recording.
In Vessel Cluster #1, the forms of the three objects - two narrow-necked vessels and a squat, flat-bottomed bottle in copper - are familiar.
The concept of the artist's individual vision is fully realised, however, in the method of their fabrication. The two vessels in stainless steel are riveted together with tiny silver pins that provide an even and rhythmic profile of small protrusions like so many mapping pins delineating landforms. These small regular projections along the profile of the forms cast complex shadows.
They also remind me of the spikes that outline the shapes of cactus stems, while their precision is the precision of the rivets on the fuselage of a modern plane - precise, clean and streamlined.