The national touring exhibition WOOD: art design architecture opened in Brisbane at the QUT Art Museum last week. I thought I would share with you my review of the exhibition written originally for ArchitectureAU online on the occasion of the exhibition first opening at JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design, in February 2013. And so not to ruin the experience of seeing the work in QUT’s generous sequence of exhibition spaces, I have only included photos of the original JamFactory installation that accompanied the text below. Enjoy!
WOOD: art design architecture celebrates our long relationship with wood and presents its diverse properties and qualities, along with the multiplicity of ways it can be worked. The exhibition includes work from twenty-eight Australian exhibitors who either work directly with wood, or with skilled crafts-people. The pieces relate to each other on several levels to form an overall vision for the exhibition based on figure and form; pushing material limits; craftsmanship and our eternal connection to wood – through place, nature, use and memory.
Interior and architectural projects are part of the showing. These are often difficult to appreciate in an exhibition context without directly experiencing the made place in real-time, but each project is presented in a distinct way to give an insight not available in the experience of the actual project.
Brian Hooper and m3architecture’s Tree of Knowledge Memorial 2009 is presented through a single key image alongside one of the recycled hardwood elements used to reinstate the aura around the remains of the Tree of Knowledge. This allows an intimate experience of these elements (that hang out of reach in the actual project) and thus enables an appreciation of the hardwood’s age, materiality and previous life as telephone and electrical poles. A simple scale model of March Studio’s Baker D. Chirico on the other hand emphasises the contour like nature of its interior plywood ceiling and wall strata.
Small massing and form models of John Wardle Architect’s Shearer’s Quarters project are displayed in an elegant spruce jewellery box with sliding drawer. The Jewellery Box is crafted with the same care and attention to detail as the office’s architectural projects and represents a key part of the practice – the relationships formed with highly skilled craftsman to achieve complex architectural ideas. The fruit of these key relationships is found in the joyful and intimate experiences that punctuate life lived in and around this practice’s buildings.
Hossein Valamanesh’s Breathe 2012, bronze cast from assembled twigs and branches, celebrates the life-giving force of nature, forests and trees. Architect Drew Heath’s spaces are warmed by light that has been warmed by wood’s hue. Developed within the experimental confines of his own home, Heath’s light lintels (on display) and layered ceilings incorporate marine plywood to warm our modern-day fluorescents.
Tom Miram’s The Memory Keeper 2012 is made from the trunk of a fallen coastal grey box, and marks his connection to the place of his childhood, and the history of change along its river valley. Other works show the process of realising work in wood.
Alexander Lotersztain’s marine plywood Plantation Chair prototype (a step to the final design with adjustment marks and cuts) is displayed beside a standard plywood sheet nested with the assembly elements of four Plantation Chairs and accompanying Eggcups. Sherrie Knipe’s patterned Boot Lace and John Quan’s incredibly thin Flexible Desk Lamp push timber veneer to its limits, while offering playful outcomes.
Brief 2012 (my favourite work in the exhibition) by Damien Wright, is a large dining table made using ancient petrified Red Gum and Ringed Gidgee. Its honesty, logic and refinement exemplifies Wright’s adept skill and the unique techniques he has developed to form these hard to work timbers. The undulating drawer fronts of Khai Liew Julian Chest 2011 invite touch and use to appreciate the solid American black walnut. It is made with care and exactitude and will age gracefully over generations to come.
Throughout my visit to this exhibition, I felt a strong desire to touch the works – to get up close, to see the grain and smell the scent of the woods used. Our long, close up and personal relationship with wood is kindled by this heart-felt exhibition and beautiful accompanying publication. Wood is warm to touch, alive and ever-changing and continues to find a place within our lives and memories.
WOOD: art design architecture resulted from a collaboration between JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design and Botanic Gardens of Adelaide, where it was presented in February through early April 2013 with the exhibition continuing its national tour throughout 2013 and 2014. The exhibition at QUT Art Museum continues until 29 June 2014. See their website for details.