Michael Retter & Scott Mitchell
16 December 2017 – 27 February 2018
Opening by Dick Smith AC
1986 Australian of the Year, Companion of the Order of Australia, Entrepreneur, Businessman Aviator, Philanthropist, Founder: Dick Smith Electronics, Australian Geographic Magazine
2pm Sunday 16 December 2017
Octagon ArtSpace, Bungendore Wood Works Gallery
Exhibition continues until 27 February 2018
Bridges make connections over time and place, people and events. These arcs make for meanings. And this exhibition bridges our artists through their collaborations and their two previous collaborative exhibitions at the Bungendore Wood Works Gallery.
Michael Retter and Scott Mitchell, from a commission through the Wood Works, connect to Pip and Dick Smith when they proposed a whimsical project some 20 years ago to fit out a train carriage connecting their air landing field to their residence at their property in Gundaroo to provide an amusing talking point for their fly-in visitors.
[Patrons who embrace the sometimes fanciful (like Dick Smith) encourage adventures in art, and without adventure we become mundane, dull, safe.]
This current exhibition bridges the 34th and 35th year for the Gallery, of some poignant significance for a commercial gallery for wood making, sculpture and fine art to survive the various cultural fashions of the day, and the economic and technological disruptions of our extraordinary generation.
The Retter-Mitchell collaboration has always sought to explore new ground, bridging unfamiliar territory. And this Exhibition moves both artists well out front of the cozy and assured commercial success of their previous work.
I do hope that I will not say, as Picasso’s mentor, collector and promoter, Paul Rosenberg said of a touring exhibition of Picasso’s paintings in the USA in 1923: “Your exhibition is a great success, and like all successes, we have sold absolutely nothing!” Our commercial gallery cannot afford that kind of success! We rely completely on the special bridge to our purchasing public as sustaining patrons of our endeavours, our makers and artists, and this, their gallery.
David Mac Laren
Designer Maker in Wood
Founder and Director Bungendore Wood Works Gallery
A visit to Scott’s home last year introduced me to the beauty of the Snow Gum (Eucalyptus pauciflora), when I saw a large picture of one on the wall. This led me to experimentation with coloured woods and the results are featured here in this, our latest collaborative exhibition.
Until now I had been cautious about using dyed veneers alongside the natural wood hues. Some use has been made for a long time by soaking reactive veneers in a chemical solution which brought about a chemical change in the wood, usually resulting in varying tones of grey or grey/green.
My current pictures represent the Snow Gum colours fairly accurately; and allows me some fun in making abstract interpretations of the Snow Gum bark.
I realised some time ago that the narrow vertical format pieces are a very practical way of presenting marquetry for the home. They allow much more versatility in hanging and certainly offer more display options than the horizontal version of the format.
However, when standing back and looking at several of the abstract Snow Gum pieces I could see that such pieces present very well as horizontal pictures. With this in mind, I have refrained from signing these pieces on the face, and have done so on the back. This allows the picture to be displayed in any position.
My work with Scott is to continue, and we have many ideas for a further body of work next year!
My first collaboration with Scott some 20 years ago (or thereabouts) was a commissioned piece for Mr. Smith (aka Dick Smith) and has resulted in many joint projects. So we regard it as only fair and reasonable that Dick Smith share at least part of the blame.
I had marveled at Mike’s amazing marquetry on the walls of Bungendore Wood Works Gallery long before we first met. It had me attempt my own inlay project, where I discovered how seriously difficult this art form was and left me presuming that this guy must be either one cranky woody, or perhaps just a bit loopy!
It was over a project commissioned by Pip and Dick Smith that saw us finally meet and I realised that I was wrong about Mike - he was just really gifted. This was where our collaborative work began.
Michael and I regularly discuss collective projects and we seem to share a lot in common when it comes to trying new things in wood. The pieces in this exhibition are just another conversation between us - bouncing ideas back and forth and questioning new techniques and forms.
The insect-like tables we’ve worked on hopefully bring a smile to their owners’ faces each time they enter the room. The woods chosen and used are rather rare in their highly decorative and figurative grain, and were chosen with the thoughts of just how many insects are so strikingly marked in nature.
The wall table with cherry blossom marquetry in the top surface is a continuum of table designs we have produced over the past 12 years or so. Our first table together featured a Waratah viewed from above and here is a vastly different botanical study, displayed in a similar way, but with an entirely new feel to the design.
Keep an eye out for the next chapter in our series of tables!