Signature, curated by Diana Hare

19 July to 25 August 2012

Craft ACT : Craft and Design Centre’s annual Accredited Professional Members exhibtion

Nikki Main, Tidal Waters, 2011, blown glass, wheel cut.

Signature by Diana Hare

Each year the membership is invited to participate in a curated group exhibition. Each year this poses a challenge for the curator - how to theme and structure a collective of diverse artists and disparate works into a coherent exhibition narrative. The challenge is the theme. It is both a blessing - offering an opportunity for the artist to play, experiment and move outside the boundaries of their general practice - and a curse - at times restricting and limiting those artists who do not wish to be categorised. However, as every exhibition requires a thread of continuity to hold it together, this curator decided to be broad with the theme, in an attempt to showcase the Accredited Professional Members for who they are - highly skilled professional artists. This is what formed the premise for Signature. It is a humble beginning for an exhibition of striking, powerful and well executed work, of craft artists and designer makers who have and are making their mark on contemporary craft and design.

The artists represented in Signature have reflected on their practice, and selected a single work that is their Signature; a work that upon sighting will readily identify its creator. While the works on exhibition speak of the individual artist, some common themes are discernable. The most apparent are investigations of landscape and the natural environment and thereof the experience and memory, life and the everyday ritual, the built environment, design in its purity, and a devotion to technique.

Environment and place, and experience and memory, are phrases which consistently find their way into the narrative of artistic practice. The natural landscape is a powerful source of inspiration and the layers of interpretation available for the artist, create works that engage our senses and present new ways of thinking about our vast Australian landscape.

Julie Ryder's works Transmorphing 3 and 4 begins the exploration of the natural environment with the microscopic. Ryder is fascinated with the macro and micro, a trait she attributes to her early training in science. Intrigued by the outward appearance of an object or image, Ryder is then drawn in to investigate further and has used the microscope as her tool to do so. Using scanning electron microscopy and digital software Ryder creates her own organisms and landscapes, drawn originally from plant and animal life such as butterfly wings and moss.

Dianne Firth describes her layered and stitched textile works as quilt textiles. Informed by her training as a landscape architect, Firth uses this medium as a vehicle for expressing her observations of the relationship and interactions between nature and people. Using a process of abstraction, Firth manipulates line, colour and texture to express environmental phenomenon such as drought, fire and flood, and to evoke a visual and emotional response.

Cathy Franzi's ceramic practice is devoted to the exploration of Australian flora. Franzi has developed a distinctive sgraffito linocut style of carving the clay surface to represent her interpretation of Australian flora and investigation of the impact of environmental degradation. Franzi's style is based on research into printmaking techniques and work made during the 1920's, the heyday of the use of Australian flora in printmaking and ceramics.

The ever present phenomenon of water in the landscape, is the focus of Nikki Main's works, in particular the movement of water and soil fertility. Main employs a range of glass making techniques to create sculptural objects which depict their inspiration, replicating bodies of water. On close study the forms are a capsule of micro elements of sediment and flowing clear water, but also reference the landscape of river flows and surges.

Linda Davy is drawn to the beauty of line, shadow, tone, structure and texture in the natural environment. Davy employs a combination of found materials and hand made elements to explore these concepts. Davy's work can be described as considered spontaneity, seemingly random collected materials are given careful contemplation in the creation of the work's composition.

The resources of the immediate environment are ingrained in the making process for Avi Amesbury. Clay collected from the land by Amesbury, forms the basis to her exploration of the multi-layered and intricate relationships between landscape, experience and memory. Her constructed slab and slip-cast porcelain forms are stamped with stylised imagery of Australian natural symbols. Amesbury's work is vehicle for the expression of her personal relationship with the land and her exploration of its beauty, simplicity and spirit.

Dislocation and nostalgia are reflected in the practices of many artists. The process of migration, and the sense of dislocation and alienation contribute to the complexities of identity that many people face, and through artistic expression can reconnect with place.

Though trained as a painter, Nancy Tingey turned to textiles out of practical necessity, finding this medium cooperative with a life on the move with her family. It later became therapeutic for Tingey. The making process formed a way for her to resolve her struggle with issues of identity, dislocation and migration, as she held dual nationality between Australia and England. What has emerged is a devotion to feltmaking, and a metaphor for expressing her emotional response to the two different environments.

Sarit Cohen's work draws upon her Jewish and Indian heritage, by combining variations on traditional imagery and iconography, which blend with her interest in minimal forms and geometric simplicity. Cohen explores the relationship between the hand and the form, offering an invitation to interact with the vessels. Variations in shape, handle, surface markings and motifs give clues as to how to do this.

Finding comfort in the rhythm of routine and solace in everyday rituals can be a coping mechanism for dealing with the pressures and stresses that modern society can inflict. Artists are attuned to sensitively exploring the nuances of life and human experiences and can provide an outlet for the common to be shared. Monique van Nieuwland's work draws on common human experiences and highlights the beauty of everyday textiles. Her work evokes personal stories and memories, emanating from her experience working in the health profession. Through her shared experience one can find comfort in beauty of the familiar.

Marli Popple uses cloth as her chosen medium, embracing it for the association and connection with our everyday lives. Popple derives her inspiration from an observation, a moment, from words or phrases and references her own personal life and experiences. Again, Popple shares her world with us, creating moments of calm and clarity through her work, by focusing our attention on sculptural texture of the cloth.

The urban environment has a profound affect on our behaviour, both socially and culturally. These planned and designed spaces are an everlasting influence for the rendering of artistic expression, responding to technological, social, environmental and aesthetic considerations. Whether it is a re-imaging of form and space or a starting point for social comment, architecture is the inspiration for artists Judi Elliott and Ruth Hingston.

Judi Elliott has been drawn to "the house" and "all things architectural" as her inspiration for many years. Elliott says 'each building or wall that one encounters in life is embedded with the lives of the people who inhabited them'. Elliott's work is a vivid depiction of houses and large walls in glass, employing simplified geometric forms and bold primary colours combined with expressive textures.

Ruth Hingston explores the subtle relationships between interiors and exteriors and the complex interactions between these spaces and the perceptions of the people who live in them. Her constructed works are created from recycled materials gathered from domestic life, and speak of her observations of architecture as a means of expressing identity.

The term design conjures a multitude of philosophical debate about process, intent and value of designed objects. The term overlaps and brings together many fields, science, engineering, architecture, craft and the applied arts, to name a few. Over time the boundaries within the fields of craft and design have become blurred.

Oliver Smith's passion is to create beautiful functional objects that enrich people's lives. Devoted to the material and process, Smith combines traditional hammer forming techniques with design for manufacture and collaborations with industry.

Design is an extension of Gilbert Riedelbauch's practice. As he describes, "As much as the mind links an idea with a design solution, the hand connects design to the making process. Making becomes the extension of design and forms the essence of craft". For Riedelbauch the making process is the skill in manipulating tools and processes, and the integration of digital technologies with traditional art-making and craft processes is his focus.

Robert Foster's craftsmanship is deeply rooted in a highly developed sense of aesthetics and technical proficiency. He describes his driving force as a need to explore and invent. With a deep understanding of material and processes, Foster employs a strong design sense to create an evolving group of objects that meet the design ethos of marrying form and function.

All the craft forms require the maker to be attuned to the material or medium and apply a combination of complex technical skill and knowledge to achieve the desired outcome - an object that is expertly made. Many years of devotion to ones practice achieves this result, and the artists represented in Signature are recognised as masters of their craft.

Gail Nichols is heralded as the leader in soda vapour glazing. Nichols lush, dimpled expressive works have evolved from years of technical research and investigation of glaze microstructure. Morgan James' piece Callistamon citrinis 12 is a showcase of her refined technique with machine embroidery, used to create surfaces layered with embroidered florets that shimmer and undulate, and invite closer inspection.

Barbara Rogers is a devotee to the technique of shibori. With over twenty years experience, Rogers has honed her skill to create works with innovative layered surface designs. Employing a range of techniques, in particular selective bleaching and dyeing, Rogers builds the layers of colour and design onto a single surface.

Kirstie Rea is recognised internationally for her innovative techniques and sculptural approach to glass. The elegant minimalist nature of Rea's work draws attention to the seductive surfaces of her kiln-formed and cold-worked forms. Preparing for a picnic, is a nod to Rea's exploration of interactions with the Australian natural landscape.

Many words can be used to describe Luna Ryan's work, naive, primitive, contemplative, transcending the mundane, ritualistic, and spiritual. Ryan works on an intuitive basis, using glass as her prime medium to create composite tableaux, referencing personal and general stories. Ryan's piece A day around town, is a tribute to all that might be experienced in a day.

While at first glance, Signature may appear to be yet another group exhibition, looking past the obvious will reveal a complexity of skill and technique, story telling and vibrant objects to experience.