Crafty arts converge on WA

Will YeomanThe West Australian
Uday Singh is farmer and accomplished ceramicist from India.
Camera IconUday Singh is farmer and accomplished ceramicist from India. Credit: Supplied

Kicking off in September and running through to November, IOTA21: Indian Ocean Craft Triennial is a celebration of art and craft in all its forms. Its theme is Curiosity and Rituals of the Everyday.

IOTA21 features handmade works in a variety of media by more 200 artists, craftspeople, designers and artisans from WA, India, South Africa, Kenya, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.

Jude van der Merwe heads up the volunteer founding team of curators, art managers and academics.

“The original plan was to stage just one major exhibition to showcase examples of contemporary craft from around the Indian Ocean Rim,” she says.

John Curtin Gallery and Fremantle Arts Centre responded enthusiastically, and quickly.

“Once word escaped to the wider art and craft community in WA, we were inundated with requests from galleries and craft groups who wanted to join in,” she continues.

“The result is that we now have a large complementing festival supporting the major international exhibition, a conference, a fashion event and public program.”

South African ceramicist Andile Dyalvane is one of 37 lead artists whose work will feature in the inaugural Indian Ocean Craft Triennial.
Camera IconSouth African ceramicist Andile Dyalvane is one of 37 lead artists whose work will feature in the inaugural Indian Ocean Craft Triennial. Credit: Supplied

Among the 37 lead artists from eight Indian Ocean Rim countries whose work will be exhibited at the Fremantle Arts Centre and John Curtin Gallery are Uday Singh (Madhya Pradesh, India), Sunny Dolat (Kenya), Anniketyni Madian (Malaysia), Pierre Fouche (South Africa), Jakkai Siributr (Thailand), Jan Griffiths (WA) and Madhvi Subrahmaniam (Singapore).

Uday Singh’s story is a good example of the centrality of art and craft to these artists’ lives. And of an organic, holistic attitude to art.

Uday is a farmer and accomplished ceramicist and technician based at Art Ichol. He is known for his highly collectable, sculpted clay cows and for facilitating other ceramic artists’ residencies at the centre.

His deep understanding of natural materials and animal forms is firmly based in his background as a farmer. No two figurines are alike, with Uday imbues each of his cows with its own personality and decorative features.

Artist Jan Griffiths is a Miriwoong/Ngarinyman woman living in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia.
Camera IconArtist Jan Griffiths is a Miriwoong/Ngarinyman woman living in the remote Kimberley region of Western Australia. Credit: Supplied

A number of other artists from WA and abroad will have their work displayed at further institutions throughout Perth and regional WA. Venues include the Art Gallery of WA, Kidogo Arthouse (Fremantle), Albany Town Hall, Bunbury Regional Art Gallery, Gallery 152 (York), Mandurah Performing Arts Centre and The Junction Co/Courthouse Gallery (Port Hedland).

Jude agrees the team’s ambitions were modest to begin with. “I had absolutely no idea that people would be so desperate to be involved,” she says.

“We just wanted to see if we can show people what extraordinary skills are required in craft. And then talk about what it takes to make an object using traditional materials. And then everything else just unfolded.”

IOTA21 is also about raising awareness then. Of what goes into making an object. What its true value is. Which is something few of us contemplate when we purchase souvenirs when travelling overseas.

“As Australians we might buy something to bring home and we’re amazed for a while and then we forget about it,” she says. “But this is the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of people around our region.”

She recalls visiting a family block printing business in Gujarat, India, many years ago. “They head blocks that were made by their great-great-grandfathers on their shelves! We just don’t understand the hundreds of years of experience and learning how to make objects that go into these traditions.”

IOTA21 will be at venues throughout WA. See indianoceancrafttriennial.com for details.

Read our recent PLAY magazine feature here.

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