Upstairs, in the main space of the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery sits a coffee machine upon a plinth. Not art, but excellent design. You might ask, what is a coffee machine doing displayed in an art gallery, sitting like a museum piece to be studied? Well perhaps that is precisely what you are encouraged to ask. STEEL: art design architecture is an intriguing exhibition that uses the formalities of the art gallery to encourage us to re-look at and re-imagine the possibilities of materials and good design.
The Little Guy by Craig Hiron, asks us to observe the shiny curved edges and compact shape of the coffee machine, which are both slick and innovative. The entire gallery is filled with a diverse display of unique and inspiring designs that utilise the qualities of steel.
The national touring exhibition, STEEL: art design architecture, has been brought to the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery by JamFactory, an Adelaide based not-for-profit that promotes crafts and design internationally. The exhibition first and foremost revels in its chosen material. The third in this series of similarly themed exhibitions (following WOOD 2013 and GLASS 2015), steel is unique in its ability to mould and remould countless times without losing strength or integrity. The exhibition demonstrates the range of possibilities of steel and that good design is for everyone to appreciate.
In the gallery, my attention is drawn to two large weathering steel sculptures in the shape of seeds by Matthew Harding. Their earthy colours are utterly captivating. These are accompanied by the mesmerising work of Gunybi Ganambarr, who reuses sheets of corrugated steel salvaged from water tanks to delicately etch the songs of the Yolngu from North East Arnhem Land.
Further along, a detailed scale model designed by Misho + Associates uses laser cut timber to represent what is to become brightly-coloured steel screens of a house on a hill in Tasmania. The intricate model expresses the carefully considered design decisions and is impressively true to the constructed house that is shown on an adjacent slideshow. At the centre of the gallery sits a simple, yet skilfully designed outdoor chair and table. Made from thin lengths of curved blue powder coated stainless steel, Trent Jansen’s relaxing furniture set is subtle and elegant.
Together, the twenty-nine examples create a fascinating exhibition exploring the breadth of use and appearance of steel through beautiful designs. The display is simple and consistent. While the gallery is made up of contrasting architectural styles and materials, the Bunbury Regional Art Gallery staff have thoughtfully and effectively placed the large exhibition.
STEEL: art design architecture signifies the incredible potential and versatility of this material. Accompanied by a publication of the same name, the exhibition celebrates the intersections of art, design and architecture, and provides an enlightening view into materiality.
STEEL: art design architecture
7 December 2019 – Sunday 9 February 2020
Bunbury Regional Art Gallery
Words and Photography by Riva-Jean Lander