Twentieth century German conceptual artist Joseph Beuys famously proclaimed "every man is an artist" and it seems that we have built upon this notion to include craft. It is perhaps easy to utilise statements like this as truths, yet for artists engaged with craft practice, this type of belief does not accommodate the important idea of skill. In from the Garden showcases the practices of four establishing contemporary artists with feet firmly in the skilled terrain of craft practice.
Auckland jeweller Renee Bevan has borrowed generic images of roses, the kind of images which proliferated in 1960s and '70s gardening related publications. In these new works, the rose image is cut-and-pasted to become sections of petals on successive layers of wood. The resulting brooches are kind of clunky yet elegant and not entirely disposed of their former glory. Ceramic artist Blue Black, based in Otago, is gaining attention for works which arrive from the kiln after an energetic and performative process as charred, colourful, grotesque and ultimately striking objects.
Otago based Jeweller Victoria McIntosh has fashioned a collection of found and hand altered finely crafted objects, entitled In Harm's Way? which are subjected to the notion of separation - a central idea in McIntosh's practice, as an adoptee. McIntosh observes "this piece is a response to the new reproductive technologies and the ethical questions they raise for society as a whole." Hawkes Bay artist Ben Pearce illustrates the value of tinkering around in the studio with conceptual ideas and technical craft skills ready to be freely deployed. Pearce's objects are predominantly of wood, which is minutely crafted and skillfully combines locally found objects and machine parts.
These exhibitors, since emerging from their respective New Zealand tertiary arts programmes during the last half decade, have between them exhibited nationally and internationally, entering and winning awards and demonstrating capabilities as makers of artistically attuned craft. Objectspace has observed the opportunities and difficulties makers can encounter in establishing practices. With this in mind, In from the Garden is intended to look closer at four makers from around New Zealand who, currently at this period of their respective careers, are staying the course and readying to settle in for the long haul.
In 1897, the American historian Alice Morse Earle wrote, "half the interest of a garden is the constant exercise of the imagination. You are always living three, or indeed six, months hence. I believe that people entirely devoid of imagination never can be really good gardeners. To be content with the present, and not striving about the future, is fatal." Similar to gardening, art, including craft is a barometer of the times and, as Alice Morse Earle observed, notable practice always looks to the future. Helping to redefine the parameters of contemporary craft and fine art practice, the makers featuring in In from the Garden demonstrate that they are "striving about the future".
Renee Bevan, Blue Black, Victoria McIntosh, Ben Pearce