‘Johannes Kuhnen: a survey of innovation’ @ RMIT Gallery

23 06 2009

Alongside ‘Schmuck 2009’ at the RMIT Gallery is ‘Johannes Kuhnen: a survey of innovation‘.

Exhibition media states: “Johannes Kuhnen has made a pioneering contribution to Australian design and gold and silver smithing through his commitment as a generous educator and innovative practitioner. This exhibition will create linkages between his earlier works, some of which was made in Germany prior to migrating to Australia and new work specifically produced for this exhibition and this will be done both with objects and through a catalogue/monograph to be launched at the opening venue. The exhibition will borrow from Australian public and private collections to facilitate the demonstration of connecting design elements in the work from both significant streams in Kuhnen’s work in jewellery and hollowware.

photograph taken with permission of RMIT gallery

photograph taken with permission of RMIT gallery

The statement on Artabase is also a good introduction: “Johannes Kuhnen is a pioneer of the anodising and colouring process of aluminium and its application in a studio based practice. He combines traditional working methods with industrial materials and processes. The works are recognisable through his dynamic use of colour and form and his attention to detail.

photograph taken with permission of RMIT Gallery

photograph taken with permission of RMIT Gallery

Objects here include teapots, platters, jewellery and glasses. Many of the pieces are brightly coloured – which isn’t really my thing, but having previously used anodised aluminium I can appreciate the skill and technique in the flawless colouring. But of course the most important techniques are his handskills.

Johannes gave an artist talk on the Friday after the exhibition opening. It could not be held in the gallery surrounded by his exhibition because of the failure of the public address system the night before – so it was in the lecture theatre. That seemed okay to me actually, and it took conversation to places I doubt would have been ventured if the objects were distracting us.

Johannes explained that many of the pieces in this exhibition were sourced from collections, particularly where they were not on regular display. And to see his own work, which of course no longer belonged to him, he needed to make appointments and was no longer able to handle the objects. He mentioned that as he looked at these pieces made in the past, he was reminded of his thoughts and feelings at the time he was making them – something I can relate to.

He also spoke of, and generated quite a lot of discussion and some disagreement to, his views on the education of gold and silversmiths within universities. He spoke of the lack of art history and history of design in universities, and what little existed was driven by trends. And of the reduction in funding constraining what can be provided to students, and there was not enough time for appropriately teaching skills. And questioned if the emphasis on writing, particularly in post-graduate degrees, was not distorting the emphasis of the art: are they good makers or good writers? There were many educators in the audience, and those who spoke were more optimistic about education – which was good, for if our educators are not positive it’s a shame, as they are the ones who can effect change within the institutions.

Johannes Kuhnen: a survey of innovation‘ is at RMIT Gallery until 18th July 2009.

Update (5th July 2009): this exhibition has been rapturously reviewed by Marcus at ArtBlart [here] – “This is a superlative exhibition, one of the highlights of the year so far in Melbourne.



One response

6 07 2009
Exhibition: ‘Johannes Kuhnen: a survey of innovation’ at RMIT Gallery, Melbourne « Art Blart

[…] Photographs of the exhibition and interesting observations by Karen Thompson on the Johannes Kuknen talk can be found on the Melbourne Jeweller website. […]

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