Contemporary Australian Silver & Metalwork Award 2013

The Contemporary Silver and Metalwork Award 2013, at Arts Centre Melbourne
The Contemporary Silver and Metalwork Award 2013, at Arts Centre Melbourne

This weekend is your final chance to see the Contemporary Australian Silver & Metalwork Award 2013 at Arts Centre Melbourne. A Bendigo Art Gallery exhibition presented in partnership with Buda Historic Home and Garden, Castlemaine; this unique biennial exhibition aims to encourage, foster and promote excellence and innovation in Australian metalwork as well as cultivate an understanding and appreciation of silversmithing to a wider audience.

On display in the Smorgon Family Plaza are the six 2013 award winners and works shortlisted for the Arts Centre Melbourne Silver Award (Acquisitive). These pieces highlight the extraordinary work being created by contemporary Australian artists working with silver. They demonstrate the diverse creative possibilities that this medium is capable of, from fine jewellery and holloware vessels to elegantly crafted functional items such as tea sets.

Inaugurated in 2007 and sponsored by the Maxwell and Merle Carroll Fund, the Arts Centre Melbourne Silver Award (Acquisitive) recognises excellence in silver design, craftsmanship and originality by an artist inspired by or interpreting the Australian performing arts. This award is just one of the dynamic approaches through which Arts Centre Melbourne’s Public Art Collection is able to acquire new work by leading contemporary Australian artists. In 2013 the Arts Centre Melbourne Silver Award (Acquisitive) was presented to Melbourne jeweller and metal smith Karl Millard for his work The Ashlar Shuffle.

Karl Millard, 'The Ashlar Shuffle', 2013
Karl Millard, ‘The Ashlar Shuffle’, 2013
Photo: Ian Hill

The Contemporary Australian Silver and Metalwork Award attracts some of the finest artists and designers of silver and metalwork in Australia. First launched in 1988 by Buda Historic Home and Garden, Castlemaine, the Award was established to commemorate the significant contribution to Australian silversmithing by the noted colonial silversmith, Ernest Leviny. The Leviny family lived at Buda for more than 118 years and the home and garden remain as a legacy of the Leviny family and a unique reminder of an important era of development in Australia’s history. In 2013 Bendigo Art Gallery joined with Buda Historic Home and Garden for the first time to present this award.

Performative Prints from the Torres Strait

Performative Prints from the Torres Strait Exhibition[Photograph by Mark Ashkenasy 2013]
Performative Prints from the Torres Strait Exhibition
[Photograph by Mark Ashkenasy 2013]
Arts Centre Melbourne’s current exhibition ‘Performative Prints from the Torres Strait’ celebrates the integral links between contemporary art and traditional performance from the Torres Strait, and is part of an ongoing annual program of exhibitions exploring the crossover between the visual and performing arts.

Over the last two decades, senior Torres Strait Islander performers and artefact makers have received widespread recognition for their magnificent headdresses, masks and dance paraphernalia, while a younger generation of artists have become leading exponents of a distinctive printmaking movement.

This exhibition showcases a selection of works by four prominent contemporary Torres Strait Islander artists – Ricardo Idagi, Ellen Jose, Brian Robinson and Alick Tipoti – including a range of media, prints, headdresses, sculptural masks and objects. Two of the artists, Ricardo Idagi and Ellen Jose are based in Melbourne, while Alick Tipoti and Brian Robinson live in Cairns, from where many of the works were shipped in the lead up to the exhibition.

Performative Prints from the Torres Strait Exhibition[Photograph by Mark Ashkenasy 2013]
Performative Prints from the Torres Strait Exhibition
[Photograph by Mark Ashkenasy 2013]
The title of the exhibition refers to beautiful and highly-dramatic black-and-white linoprints by Alick Tipoti and Brian Robinson which surround the walls, while three-dimensional sculptural works by Ricardo Idagi are located in the centre of the gallery, creating a dialogue between the objects and prints. Complementing and completing the exhibition is Ellen Jose’s beautifully evocative ‘Song Journey’ film and soundtrack.

While every single work in the show is important in its own right, Tipoti’s monumental ‘Girelal’, 2011, is a true statement of artistic ambition. Not just a personal triumph, it is also a symbolic statement of the pictorial and technical mastery achieved by Torres Strait Islander printmakers over the last two decades.

All (gloved) hands on deck for the installation of Alick Tipoti's 'Girelal' 2011.
All (gloved) hands on deck for the installation of Alick Tipoti’s ‘Girelal’ 2011.

‘Girelal’ is an unframed linoprint on a roll of paper measuring over 8 metres in length. It is reputedly the largest single linoprint in the world today, and occupies an entire wall in the gallery. It required eight staff and an entire day to install the work. It was so exciting for everyone involved when ‘Girelal’ was finally unrolled and hung upon the wall. It is both intricate in detail and expansive in scale, with masked and ceremonially dressed dancers taking centre stage, to the accompaniment of trumpet shells (bu) and chanting elders playing traditional drums (warup).

‘Girelal’ is a breathtaking work that should be experienced in the moment, like a theatrical performance. With that in mind Alick Tipoti and the Badu Island Zugubal Traditional Dancers are travelling from the Torres Strait and Cairns to give a public performance alongside this work over the weekend of the 14 April @ 2.00pm. To have the artist and his troupe perform in the gallery is a wonderful confirmation of the rationale behind curating the exhibition.

View the event details on Arts Centre Melbourne’s main website here.

Dr Steven Tonkin – Curator (Contemporary & Live Art)