Previously named the Cicely & Colin Rigg Contemporary Design Award after its benefactors, the award initiated in 1994 was originally only for Victorian practitioners but has been broadened this year to include designers from all over Australia. To coincide with this change, the award has also changed its name to something a lot more zappy and direct. The Rigg Design Prize finalists for 2015 are Daniel Emma (South Australia), Adam Goodrum (New South Wales), Khai Liew (South Australia), Korban & Flaubert (New South Wales), Koskela (New South Wales) with the Elcho Island Arts weavers (Northern Territory), Brodie Neill (Tasmania) and Kate Rohde (Victoria).
The concept behind the award is to support craft and design through an exhibition of a body of work by a section of practitioners with a particularly current piece forming the piece on which the prize is awarded. This year the judges were of a breathtaking magnitude: Wava Carpenter Editor in Chief of L'ArcoBaleno (and former curator of Design Miami) and Gijs Bakker, co-founder of Dutch collective Droog Design and long time director of the Masters course at leading design institution, Design Academy Eindhoven.
While it was announced on Thursday evening (17th of September) that Sydney designer, Adam Goodrum, was the actual winner of the $30,000 prize for his 'Unfolding' work of three diacroic perspex houses, I think it is worthwhile highlighting the outstanding and varied work of the other designers who were selected as finalists.
The judges described Goodrum's work as "pushing the boundaries of design with it's dreamy, hazy and poetic atmosphere". It's true that Goodrum's work was a total surprise as he is a designer who is best known for his well conceived industrial design products rather than conceptual works. If Goodrum's work presented a minimal hazy, pastel wonderland, Kate Rohde's room of resin pieces was a palace of excess.
At 35 Rohde is one of the younger Rigg finalists. A graduate of the Victorian College of Arts in 2001 Rohde set up her own studio a year later and has consistently exhibited since. Rohde describes her work as "shiny, loud, colourful and unashamedly decorative. I’m compelled and repulsed in equal measures by the fantastical environments I make.” The work itself is executed in various synthetic polymers and resins built up into a mesmerising tableau of furniture, vessels and ornaments. Rhode is represented by Pieces of Eight Gallery and Karen Woodbury Gallery in Melbourne and since 2010 has regularly collaborated with fashion label, Romance Was Born.
It would be hard to think of a more contrasting style and material emphasis than that found in the work of Korban and Flaubert. Specialising in sculptures and furniture products in metal - stainless steel, Corten steel and aluminium. Janos Korban and Stefanie Flaubert started their studio in 1993 while working in Germany on lightweight architecture and exhibition design but formerly founded their practice back in Sydney in 1995. Working out of their studio and workshop in Alexandria, the pair produce to both public and private commission while also creating a small range of production pieces. They have exhibited widely across Australia and internationally in Germany and the US and have pieces in the permanent collections of the Powerhouse Museum, Sydney and Pinakothek der Moderne, Germany.
Khai Liew is an Adelaide based former restorer, turned fine woodworker and designer. Of Chinese Malay origin, Liew fled Malaysia with his family in the late 1960's and settled in Adelaide as a student in 1971. After several decades of working as a restorer of the highest calibre, working on projects for private customers and museums both locally and abroad, Liew launched his design career at the ripe old age of 44. Immediately recognised as a man with a singular aesthetic, Liew has rolled out an impressive body of work since his first furniture piece in 1996. Currently working on a 190 piece commission for White Rabbit gallery owner, Judith Neilson, Liew is constantly reinventing the fertile ground that exists between Scandinavian, Asian and Colonial European furniture.
The four official images above 'Bell' (2014), 'Circle' (2014), 'Desk' (2014), 'Chair' (2015), represent four of the objects seen at the Rigg Design Prize exhibition. In addition were an exquisite table simply named 'Table' (2014), 'Prue' a cabinet originally created as a one off piece with ceramicist Prue Venables in 2010 and several smaller pieces such as a floor light and side table executed in sycamore maple and European oak respectively (as seen in the centre of the location image above).
Examples of Brodie Neill's material driven masterpieces such as his 'E-turn' bench for Kundalini (2007), his limited edition 'Remix' bench (2008) and his 'Reverb' chair shown above, formed part of the exhibition of his work along with much more recent designs for his newish brand Made in Ratio such as last years 'Alpha' chair and the magnificent 'Cowrie' rocker from Made in Ratio Collection 2.
Neill has been based in London for many years but originally hails from Tasmania. While his fluid three-dimensional design style may have gestated during his time at Rhode Island School of Design, it has been Neill's fascination with traditional British industry that has directed his more recent work away from carbon fibre and resin to cast metals and timber. His limited edition work is represented by The Apartment Gallery in London.
Daniel To and Emma Aiston are an Adelaide based design duo that are rapidly becoming super stars internationally. Starting their practice in 2008 they have products produced in France, Denmark and USA and have been part of Wallpaper magazine's Wallpaper Handmade three times and are frequent exhibitors in New York, Paris, Tokyo, London and Berlin.
Their objects and furniture pieces feature simple geometric forms - cones, cylinders and spheres - in a mix of materials like resin, marble, timber and metal, that bring a playfulness to interior spaces. Decoration is replaced by perfection of shape and proportion. Shown above are, among other things, the 'Ball Ball Ball' pendant light, the 'Mish Mash' chair the 'Pick 'n' Mix' table, 'Cherry on the bottom' pendant and 'JamFactory Jam' table and chairs.
Russell Koskela and Sasha Titchkosky formed Koskela in 2000 and operate their design studio across corporate and domestic sectors creating entire interior solutions along with individual lighting and furniture products. Since 2009 they have been collaborating with the Elcho Island Weavers in the Northern Territory and Mavis Warrngilna Ganambarr in particular. The Yuta Badayala project started out based on a wire pendant light frame to allow for the diversification of the woven Pandanus grass objects the Yolngu weavers from Elcho Island could offer. Koskela has recently added new objects to the line up - the 'Hoodie' covered desk, a new range of lights that add a slick spun metal canopy component to the woven outcome and a modular meeting place made up of timber seats and supports with woven panels.
To coincide with the Rigg Design Prize 2015, the National Gallery of Victoria ran an impressive two day seminar Parallels - Journeys into Contemporary Making featuring 15 world class keynote speakers from the areas of craft, design, sustainability and design commerce. Apart from Gijs Bakker and Wava Carpenter mentioned earlier, this included the UK designer Simon Hasan, Andrea Trimarchi of design studio Formafantasma from the Netherlands, Italian designer Antonio Arico, Trevyn & Julian McGowan, the founders of Southern Guild from Capetown, South Africa, Cyril Zammit the Director of Design Days Dubai and Margaret Wertheim from the Institute of Figuring in Los Angeles. They were joined by local speakers Helen Souness, the managing director of Etsy Australia and Asia, John Wardle from John Wardle Architects, Lou Weis of Broached Commissions, Sasha Titchkosky, co-founder of Koskela, Mavis Ganambarr of Elcho Island Arts and Veena Sahajwalla, the director of the Centre of Sustainable Materials Research & Technology at UNSW, Sydney.
Over an intense two days these incredible speakers delivered honest and heartfelt insights into how they felt craft and design can, and should come together to ensure a continuation of shrinking crafts and to add uniqueness to designed objects. Rather than go into detail here about what was said, I urge those interested to keep an eye out for the lectures to be posted on line by the NGV in the coming months. In general they were inspiring, often quite funny and always insightful, covering ideas from how waste products are being turned into valuable materials, to how design and craft based businesses can become more successful financially. Hopefully the overwhelming success of the Parallels conference will mean that it will be run again next year. You can subscribe to the NGV newsletter here which will ensure you receive notification of similar events in the future.
The Rigg Design Prize exhibition continues until February 2016 at the Ian Potter Centre Federation Square, Melbourne, Australia.