Custom made

Custom made

2 July 2009 - 8 August 2009

Corey Allen | Jonathan Desprez | Aaron Meneghel | Geoff Noakes | Ralph Smith


Motorcycle wheel

Custom made was inspired by the enthusiasm of a colleague who has slowly customised a Harley Davidson Deuce since 2002.This exhibition of five customised bikes at Craft ACT: Craft and Design Centre highlights the role of design and crafting in customising large objects while at the same time playing with the perception of the gallery as a showroom. The five bikes on display are all exquisite customised Harley Davidsons, three Softails, a Deuce and a VRod. The Deuce travelled down from Sydney while the VRod and Softails reside in Canberra.  One often views these awe inspiring machines in the street in awe and it was this exact reaction that suggested that these head turners were the perfect forms to be showing in a space dedicated to the admiration of objects.

As usual the planning for this exhibition started about a year ago and at the start I knew if all else failed; I had the bike of my close friend Jonathan Desprez available for the exhibition as it was his passion in talking about the details of customising his bike in the shed that inspired this exhibition. Back in Canberra I made some calls in an attempt to get in touch with local riders and builders of these magnificent machines. Then while walking I spotted an exquisite customised Harley Davidson V Rod outside City Custom Racing the workshop of Geoff Noakes that specialises in exhaust systems. I spoke to Geoff who agreed to be part of the show and he put me in contact with Corey Allen who heads up  the Chopperworks workshop in Fyshwick. Corey was well connected in terms of customising and was able to bring his own Harley Davidson Softail plus the Softail’s of Ralph Smith and Aaron Meneghel into the exhibition. The event and process was new for all involved, Craft ACT hadn’t show this scale of work before and the riders had never put their bikes into an art gallery

As the show continues, it is becoming evident that challenging the context of an art gallery and people’s perception of what is shown in a gallery brings a great element of surprise and wonderment to audiences. It has also been an excellent opportunity to develop new audiences. Since the exhibition opened we have had a steady flow of new faces in the gallery who have been admiring the fine lines and amazing details of these bikes. Its has been rewarding to focus on a form of crafting that is going on in the community and bring it into our artistic program, while at the same time letting people know we have this dedicated space to visit and reflect on objects and creative endeavours.

Customising involves modifying an original and in the case of these bikes they were all original Harley Davidsons. To varying degrees they have been stripped back to the structural frame with each component replaced with either a hand formed part as is the case with the metal work, or a work shopped part from a specialist supplier. They are transformed in terms of suspension, brakes, exhaust, forks, hand grips, sheet metal, seats, wheels, paint, rear wide tyre kits, indicators, lights mirrors and in some cases the motor has been replaced with a  higher capacity worked engine. The finishing touches like the paint work and polishing really makes the final ensembles swing. These objects are built for speed and the lines, colour and components embody the art of movement. 

It must be pretty special having and riding something that is this unique. I imagine that in customising, the desire to have a one off original that looks this good is a driving force. There is also something deeper that makes these objects so cool; its the admiration factor and how one can marvel at the skill involved in producing something where the parts seem to effortlessly fit together to produce a functional machine that personifies travel through space.

Jas Hugonnet

Exhibition curator

Image: Corey Allen, Customised Softail, 2007. Photo: Julius Goboly, Tower Photographics.