14th August 2014
Yesterday I travelled to the Sturt Contemporary Craft Centre at Mittagong, in NSW to look at an exhibition, given the title “The Poetry of Place – Virginia Kaiser (1945 – 2012).
I was excited on a couple of levels – one because I had wanted to visit Sturt Craft Centre for some time and two because Virginia Kaiser was one of Australia’s best known and most highly respected basketmakers.
On first entering the exhibition, I was struck by the variety and beauty of the sculptural forms before me. Not traditional baskets as perhaps we would think of basketmaking but stunning, organic, natural sculptural forms. Working primarily with natural materials: ‘I love the whole process of collecting nature’s discards; preparing them and weaving them into a basket … I love the smells, the textures and the natural forms found in nature’, Virginia Kaiser has created beautiful simple objects that could be functional, decorative, and sculptural.
A closer look at each of the forms revealed intricate and skilful stitching with linen threads to tie materials together – pine needles, pig bristles, xanthorrhea and emu feathers used in one piece ‘Animal, Vegetable, Feathers’, jacaranda, palm fruit stalks, dragon tree in another ‘Sunrise Sunset’.
The variety of natural materials used was amazing and Kaiser spent may years experimenting and developing her knowledge of materials; learning what to gather, when best to gather them, how best to store them and how to prepare them for use. Her love of the materials and indeed her love of the landscape is very evident as Sarah Evans writes in her article ‘Finding Poetry in the Landscape’ in Craft Arts Magazine ‘through her love of the landscape, her deep understanding of her materials and highly developed skills, Virginia Kaiser inspired … those who attended her exhibitions to see basketry and the landscape in a different way … a more poetic way.’
This was certainly my experience and something I aspire to. The influence of the landscape is inescapable and the beauty of the sculptures inspiring.
The exhibition continues at The Sturt Gallery until 7 September 2014.