Thirty years is a milestone in anyone’s terms. For a commercial gallery to run for thirty years is a great achievement – one worth acknowledging and celebrating.
Bungendore Wood Works Gallery opened in September 1983. The Gallery’s aims have remained consistent throughout the intervening years, although of course things have changed – including moving to new and especially designed premises.
Bungendore Wood Works continues to promote and support the designing and making of fine woodwork and David Mac Laren’s generosity and generosity of spirit infuses the gallery and all those involved with it.
Next is an exhibition that celebrates the past thirty years, but with its gaze very firmly in the future. The word ‘next’ is imbued with anticipation, excitement and the unknown.
It is often very difficult for artists and makers to predict new directions for their practice. Progress in designing and making is incremental, one or two innovations leading to the next (that word again) but only occasionally leaping into a completely new realm. As a non-woodworker it would seem to me to be even more difficult for those who work in wood. One mistake or miscalculation could lead to an expensive disaster.
The thirty artists who are included in this exhibition have shown no timidity in their work. Several were in the first exhibitions held at the Gallery and others have joined Mac Laren’s network over the past years.
Perhaps the newest member of Mac Laren’s exhibitors is Ashley Eriksmoen, Head of Workshop for Furniture at the ANU School of Art. Her Little Bug Table used the character of the piece of timber she selected. Two tight knots in the wood form prominent eyes, and sit towards one end of the timber. Painted steel legs are fitted with painted wooden feet. Her use of paint on high-value timber is unusual and as she told me, quite provocative in Australia. This table reminds us that furniture can be fun and still be of a very high standard – the essence of its uniqueness.
Grant Vaughan’s Carved Oval Mirror in Queensland Kauri Pine is as smooth as satin, with sensuous curves slipping into each other and almost looks as though it has been squeezed from a tube, framing the glass perfectly. I kept returning to this piece, as the one that kept calling me back.
Another maker whose work drew me back was Evan Dunstone who is showing Cascade Rocking Chair and Cataract Rocking Chair. The story of the Cascade chair is one of those successful leaps into a new direction. A client gave Dunstone a very specific brief, and the result is a rocking chair that doesn’t take up too much room behind it for the long rockers, nor is on springs. The Cataract chair is similar, but pared down and without upholstery. The chairs are relatively light and easily moved around – one of the original criteria – and the thought and skill that has gone into the design is impressive.
The full spectrum of woodwork techniques is included in the exhibition. Several carved works are included, in particular a wonderfully realistic Goanna with Rat by Silvio Apponyi. Terry Martin is showing Tree, carved from a red Mallee burl. He has exploited the colours of the wood, so that the foliage is a different colour to the trunk and base of the work. Martin is known internationally for his carved trees, where the timber used is exploited to create his design.
Michael Retter has an international reputation for exquisite marquetry. He uses the colours and qualities of timber, and also dyes it to obtain the exact colour, for his superb panels depicting Australian flora. Peter Young is also showing marquetry in his Spring Flowers Cabinet. This small cabinet shows great attention to design and finishing. Blossoms are scattered in one corner and are repeated on the base of one of the drawers. Several timbers have been used, creating visual interest through colour.
Rectangular Hall Stand with Mirror by Geoff Phillips is a contemporary version of useful piece of furniture not so widely used today. There is a distinct art deco element to the horizontal and vertical lines, which are set off by the circular mirror. The pale timber – Silver Ash – and darker Queensland maple are dynamic.
I am pleased to see that Helmut Lueckenhausen is once again exhibiting his thought-provoking furniture. House Teraphim I, a household god or idol, is playful using Queensland Silver Ash – pale blonde timber – and American Walnut veneer – a reddish timber – as a highlight. Seven small drawers, with an eighth even smaller, form a small set of drawers. The tiny drawer sits on the top, with a carved face peering over a pair of claws. This little household god will undoubtedly protect the contents of the drawers.
It is not possible to refer to all the works in this exhibition – several exhibitors are showing more than one piece – and I strongly urge readers to visit the Gallery to see for themselves.
David Mac Laren invited eight woodworkers from around the Bungendore region to exhibit a single work in the Gallery’s first exhibition and gave them a quantity of American Black Walnut that he had brought from New York for their projects. “You have to give things first. I believe in gestures – not the bottom line,” Mac Laren said at the time.
Next looks to the future and I have no doubt that the wood working fraternity around Australia is looking forward to a strong future for their art and their making, one in which David Mac Laren is still making such magnanimous gestures.
© October 14, 2013