CURRENT EXHIBITION ~ PARTU (SKIN)
12 MARCH - 11 APRIL 2020 ~ GALLERY SALLY DAN-CUTHBERT WITH ARC ONE GALLERY, MELBOURNE DESIGN WEEK
On 12 March 2020, Johnny Nargoodah and Trent Jansen launched their latest collaboration with Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert and Arc One Gallery as part of the National Gallery of Victoria‘s Melbourne Design Week 2o20. This new body of work is entitled Partu (Skin) and represents a coming together of their disparate knowledge and skill in working with animal pelts.
Johnny Nargoodah is a Nyikina man who has spent much of his life working with leather as a saddler on remote cattle stations, and Trent Jansen is an avant-garde object designer from Thirroul in New South Wales, who regularly experiments with leather and animal pelts in his collectable design work. Partu (2020), the Walmajarri word for ‘skin’, is their collaborative project experimenting with the combination of these disparate sensibilities. This body of work is designed by Trent and Johnny and both designers have their own lens through which to view the processes and inspirations governing these works:
From Trent’s point of view, this project is an experiment in the generation of hybrid material culture. Material Culture Theory says that the artefacts we create embody the values, ideas, attitudes and assumptions (the culture) of the creator. But what if an artefact is created collaboratively by two people from different cultures? Does this artefact exhibit the cultural values of both authors? If so, how do these cultural values manifest?
From Johnny’s point of view, the project has a few different aspects to it: Making – “we use rubbish, recycled frames, we make chairs and cabinets and use the leather to make it look good, to make it furniture that is usable and looks nice”; recycling – “it is important to reuse old rubbish we find, and the leather makes it special”; history – “the leather gives it a reference to the history of Fitzroy Crossing and station life. Saddlers used to come and repair saddles using leather, making twisted rope out of cowhide. This is what I think about when we are using the leather”; and sensory – “the smell of that leather is so good. It brings back memories, triggers those old memories of walking around the saddle room in Noonkanbah shed. There is a sensory response, that’s important.”
“The collaborative process and experimentation is key to this project. Trent and I work together on this, we both sketch, look at each other’s sketches and from there we mix it up. I’m really enjoying the skills sharing, learning from each other, we both have a lot of different ideas, we keep coming up with new works, keep experimenting.”
Unlike their Jangarra Armchair, a previous collaboration designed and made in Fitzroy Crossing, Partu was developed in Thirroul on the New South Wales Coal Coast. Johnny and Trent came together four times over a period of 18 months, developing new methods for collaboration that could shape their incongruent knowledge, methods and skills in designing and making into co-authored outcomes. These methods include: ‘Sketching exchange’, a process of back and forth sketch iteration, allowing an idea to evolve with equal input from both creators; and ‘designing by making’, a method of working with materials at full scale, to design an object as it is being made. In this approach the prototype is the sketch and both collaborators work together to carve, construct and/or manipulate material, giving the object three-dimensional form as they design and make simultaneously.
Ngumu Jangka Warnti is the Walmajarri phrase for ‘all made from rubbish’. The design of this collection began with a trip to the local scrap metal yard, in a vague search for anything interesting. Johnny and Trent salvaged a selection of discarded aluminium mesh and used this found metal as the starting point for experimentation. Trent and Johnny designed these pieces as they made them, starting with a mesh substrate cut vaguely in the shape of a chair, and together beat the material with hammers, concrete blocks and tree stumps until it took on a form that they both liked. This beaten geometry was then softened by laminating New Zealand saddle leather to skin the mesh, masking its geometry and softening its idiosyncratic undulations.
Saddle gains its name from the first sketch that Johnny made for this collection, an elongated saddle that led to experiments in stretching supple Scandinavian upholstery leather between geometric timber and steel forms to generate new, complex transitioning forms. Sketch exchanges over an 18-month period eventually yielded an entire collection built on this beautiful capability of leather to stretch between forms and give shape to the space in-between objects.
Words by Trent Jansen and Johnny Nargoodah
Arc One Gallery,
45 Flinders Lane,
12 March – 11 April 2020
National Gallery of Victoria
Gallery Sally Dan-Cuthbert
Arc One Gallery
UNSW Art & Design
Australia Council for the Arts
Western Australian Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries
This project is assisted by the Australian government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body.