The discovery of rare value in the most common of materials seems a particularly Australian quest. Eighteen newly emerged craft practitioners from across Australia demonstrate in their work how a source as humble as the supermarket can provide materials for even the most precious work of art. Materials include quartz, grass, ice cream sticks, indigenous timbers, plastic bags, cardboard packaging, styrofoam, books, blankets, skin and shampoo. In each case, a work of elegance and expressive power has been produced from extremely humble materials. The exhibition ‘Make the Common Precious’ demonstrates the creative potential of craft to transform materials through skill and imagination. This exhibition coincides with the publication of ‘Make the Common Precious’ (Thames & Hudson). Artists profiled in the publication are Ari Athans (QLD), Roseanne Bartley (VIC), Kantjupayi Benson (WA), Kate Campbell-Pope (WA), Lorraine Connelly-Northey (VIC), Honor Freeman (SA), Stephen Gallagher (VIC), Caz Guiney (VIC), David Herbert (VIC), Nicholas Jones (VIC), Nicole Lister (NSW), Sally Marsland (VIC), Paull McKee (ACT), Tiffany Parbs (SA), Anna Phillips (TAS), Fleur Schell (WA), Mark Vaarwerk (QLD), Damien Wright (VIC) and Louiseann Zahra (VIC).
This is a place for occasional news about the publication Craft Unbound: Make the Common Precious, the artists who are featured there and the exhibition touring to Santiago, Chile in October 2006. For more information about the exhibition, go here.
In her review for the Adelaide Advertiser, Margot Osborne critiques Craft Unbound alongside the National Gallery of Australia exhibition, Transformations. She rightly praises the high quality of work in the Canberra show curated by Robert Bell. While she commends the artists in Craft Unbound, she is critical of the way they are presented. She identifies ‘sternly leftist leanings’ and attacks the author for having a Ph.D. and belonging to ‘the most elite realms of the art world’. It’s a shame that Osborne has to resort to personal attack, rather than address the substance of the argument. Osborne, previously at the JamFactory and curator of shows such as The Return of Beauty, is a firm believer in craft for its own sake. And why not? The kinds of objects being made by contemporary craftspersons today are quite stunning and wonderful to behold. However, to deny the possibility that craft might also speak to other issues is to reduce its potency beyond the gallery. Craft Unbound is not an attack on the world of elitist craft. It is a group of makers who seek to renew their crafts by setting themselves the challenge of making beauty out of the world at hand. Their work is not only an aesthetic transformation of humble materials, it is also a welcome respite from a world that seeks to set our desires on consumer brands. Being beautiful objects does not detract from their power to inspire something different in our world.