Viewers can see several influences in Anton Gerner’s work. He has been working for the past twenty years or so, using traditional hand tools, construction techniques and finishes. He keeps solid quality timber – until just the right piece is conceived. We are told that he personally chooses each piece of timber and assesses the grain, colour, strength and texture, matching the perfect timber with a unique piece of handcrafted piece of furniture.
A large, blocky sofa – influenced by Art Deco furniture – is the centre piece of this exhibition. In fiddleback Blackwood, this sofa is upholstered in a deep purply-blue woven fabric. It is an imposing work, pared back and without any added decoration. Gerner has allowed the character of the timber to stand by itself and the warm reddish colour enhances the upholstery. It is comfortable and roomy but needs additional cushions to enable those of us who are shorter to sit upright. The legs taper at the base, giving an appearance of lightness. The wide rim around the arms and back of the sofa define its bulk but do not overwhelm the piece. Gerner has taken the best of Art Deco and given it a contemporary feel.
There are other simple, pared back pieces in the exhibition. A desk in solid Myrtle has two shallow drawers. Again, there is no added decoration and Gerner has allowed the colour and character of the timber to enhance the design.
A chest of drawers in Fiddleback Ash and Myrtle might have been influenced by either – or both – Shaker and Art Deco furniture. This work is contemporary and well designed, both from a practical point of view and in its simple aesthetics. The warm red of the Myrtle highlights the shape of the drawers. Small drawers run down the left hand side of the cabinet with those on the right being the larger size. The geometric shape of the drawers is punctuated by square metal drawer pulls. Gerner has used these drawer pulls throughout the furniture using different metals as appropriate.
Gerner understands the imperatives of pricing his work so that it is affordable, while acknowledging the dilemma of sustainability. Therefore he has made the drawers from plywood to keep the price down, but they are still finely made.
A cabinet on a stand is made from Myrtle and Huon pine and Blackwood. This work could be the centrepiece of a large room, as it needs lots of space around it. The stand is long, the cabinet tall. The space inside is surprisingly small, given the size of the total piece. There are some quirky touches and it is one of those singular pieces that viewers will have strong opinions about.
Two other pieces are large – one so big that it had to remain downstairs – cabinets.
Given the simplicity of Gerner’s influences I find it difficult to understand how he could make the cabinet that is upstairs. There is nothing simple about it – the combination of timbers is fussy, the design falters in several ways and despite its bulky size, the space it contains is relatively small. The cabinet is on a base – for no apparent reason – and the top is also raised, supported by small pieces of timber which reflect those used in the base. I find nothing appealing about this work.
The TV cabinet, downstairs, is an extraordinary work. In Blackwood veneer, it has a bracket to which a TV is fixed, and the whole can be raised and lowered by a remote control, hidden by a shelf when lowered. The drawers are controlled electronically, so they can be locked unobtrusively. A large stainless steel circular plate is fixed to the doors, adding texture and softness to the geometric lines of the cabinet. This piece is completely fitted out for a range of home entertainment appliances.
In most of the furniture on exhibit, Gerner has used strong, simple shapes that are enhanced by fine details. He has used contrasting timbers or burls with some inlay, to give character to the pieces.
Gerner has been exhibiting for only ten years and has won many awards. This furniture is made for the long term – think five hundred years – and wear and tear will add to the patina. The workmanship is outstanding with careful attention to detail. As often is the case, however, sometimes more is too much.
© Meredith Hinchliffe
October 26, 2012