A collaboration between the NGV and Craft Victoria, Vessels showcases the work of fifteen artists, craftspeople and designers who expand the parameters of that useful, enduring and familiar object – the vessel.
Vessels are deeply embedded in craft and design traditions. Prescribed as functional objects for holding things such as water, perfume, wine and food, or for carrying goods, vessels are more than purely utilitarian. When designed for social or cultural contexts, vessels can facilitate elaborate dining rituals, the labour of laundry and the pageantry of the liturgy. The stylistic and technological evolution of vessel design and manufacture reflects wider cultural and social change – vessels are often considered important historic objects that provide layers of anthropological information.
For Melbourne Now, the NGV and Craft Victoria have identified artists, craftspeople and designers whose creative practices have been informed by their exploration of the vessel in contemporary culture, with each practitioner producing an ambitious new work that is emblematic of their conceptual focus and skill.
Informed by a deep understanding of cultural traditions, form- making, symbolism and technical and material knowledge, the collection presented in Vessels reflects the themes and innovation of contemporary vessel design in Melbourne.
Constructed from a range of materials, from ceramics and fibre to mixed media and experimental biomaterials, these works – including an amorphous hand-built vessel made of clay, a system of vases that interlock to form a single composition, a bright blue-and-gold work adorned with ceramic feathers, and a bowl made from the burl of a fallen eucalypt – are an intimate expression of each maker, which reflects the city’s diverse design culture and thinking.
Vessels presents a snapshot of contemporary craft and making in Melbourne – the presentation hints at the breadth of material research that is being refined and shared by Melbourne’s creative community. Including ambitious handmade work and industrial production, Vessels offers visitors an opportunity to engage with well-used everyday objects re-imagined through contemporary craft and design.
Gemma Savio, Curator, Contemporary Design and Architecture, NGV