Love of nature shines through

Love of nature shines through

The Experience of Beauty - Brook Morgan; Emerging Contemporaries - work by Emerging Artists Christine Atkins, Sarah Carlson, David Cummins, Elizabeth Delfs, Callum Matheson, Brendan Murphy, Sarah Murphy, Jenny Papalexandris, Tom Skeehan, Belinda Smith, Graham Stutz, Amy Taylor, James Watt; Elements, Leather: Colin Lee and Judy Parker Craft ACT, 180 London Circuit, Civic. Tuesday-Friday, 10am-5pm; Saturday noon-4pm. On until May 12 Reviewer: Kerry-Anne Cousins

Fashion, furniture, jewellery, leatherwork, textiles and ceramics contribute to the rich variety of work in three exhibitions at Craft ACT.

Brook Morgan, Colin Lee and Judy Parker are well established artists but they share several interests in common with so many of the young emerging artists in this exhibition. Foremost, there is an interest in landscape - not necessarily the big picture landscape but more of a focus on its composite parts; the minutia of plant and animal forms. Allied to this love of nature is the awareness of environmental pollution and degradation. All the artists respect their materials and think about the sustainability of their art practice. But, of course, with artists there is also present the dynamic energy that comes from the development of new forms and new ways of creating.

Brook Morgan makes beautiful woven artworks out of found objects, native grasses and plants. The grasses, in conjunction with Casuarina needles, protea flowers and their stigmas, are woven and stitched into rolls, wall hangings and wreaths. Their appeal comes from the patterning, the repetition and painstaking skill present in bringing all these elements together. These works are enhanced by the natural colours of the grasses and plants, highlighted by the unexpected inclusion of horsehair and red thread. A key work is the grass circle (Untitled 2010) that is displayed as a wall piece. Its woven and gathered form is suggestive of the life force of long grass that is responsive to the wind while remaining firmly anchored to the earth.

Sarah Carlson, Sarah Murphy and Christine Atkins all use small plant and animal forms as inspiration for their jewellery and works in glass. Carlson takes the simple, elegant form of the bell-like flower and round leaf of the native Correa plant and interprets it in silver and metal. Each small element of leaf or flower is then organised into tightly gathered multiple layers or threaded together to make up dramatic neckpieces.

Murphy is interested in the way tiny sea anemones respond to the rhythms of water. In her jewellery, she has translated their forms into metal shapes set on tiny springs so they respond to touch and movement. Christine Atkins makes use of new technology in her two glass works, Refraction 1V and V1 (2012). The images projected onto glass surfaces are somewhat indistinct. They hint at some form of unknowable life and their slowly pulsating rhythms have a mesmerising effect.


Judy Parker also looks at nature from the viewpoint of making works of personal adornment. Her small brooches and pendants in exotic leathers, though on an intimate scale, achieve the suggestion of wide monumental landscapes by the skilful use of collage, colour and texture.

Working with the material and respecting its qualities is characteristic of work in this exhibition. Both Colin Lee and Tom Skeehan make desirable artworks from our need for utilitarian everyday objects. Lee's leather wallets have the desirability factor that comes from good craftsmanship allied to good design. The decorative markings on the wallets enhance their appeal without overstepping the boundary of decoration for its own sake. Tom Skeehan's anodised aluminium chopsticks with stand, designed to be functional, have the authority of a much larger sculptural work.

The elegant lines of the hall table (Tisch im Flur, 2011) by Graeme Stutz is a reminder of the fluidity of wood in the hands of a skilled artist. David Cummins, James Watt and Callum Matheson use sustainable material for their furniture. Cummins' modular stools (Mode, 2012) and Watt's bench (Fli Bench, 2011) both demonstrate the versatility and strength of sustainable bamboo and eco plywood. Cummins' bamboo plywood stools, with their curving ergonomic seats, have a surface made of beautiful and intricate wood patterning. Watt's bench, although made from an unsympathetic material, has been reworked by the artist to give the impression of fluidity. Based on the structure of a bird's wing, the curving legs of the bench give it an almost anthropomorphic quality. Matheson's bed/couch modular group (Modulus 2011) is made from bamboo ply, birch ply and hemp. If it was produced as an assembly-line design, it could have wide application in limited space accommodation.

Belinda Smith's wall piece, Domestication, is a clever work. A wall installation of joined, smocked vintage tea towels, it alludes to the concept of a femininity that is referenced by the performance of domestic tasks.

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