At Anita Traverso Gallery there were two solo sculpture exhibitions by husband and wife, Hendrik and Kerryn Forster. In Gallery 1 there was Kerryn Forster’s “Found + Fabricated II” and, in Gallery 2, there was Hendrik Forster’s “Domus”. The game of identifying the artist’s gender from their art is too easy with these two sculptors.
Kerryn Forster’s sculptures have a lyrical surrealism and the objects and the found wooded branches used in them have been delicately treated. In “The Offer” a delicately carved arm and hand reach out from the end of a poplar tree branch. There are lots of trees in the sculptures of Kerryn Forster; there is a tree house, trees with birds with rusted washers for heads. There are contrasting textures and emotions in her sculpture, the smooth waxed wood and the rough found objects, hope and sorrow. Her work is informed by Surrealist sculpture, like Giacometti, Miro and Ernst, but also other sculptures, like an early Christo piece of a stack of 44-gallon drums.
Kerryn Forster’s use of rusted metal objects for bases for her sculpture is the only obvious similarity with her husband’s sculptures which also shows a love of rust. It is less obvious that both of them are jewellers; Hendrik Forster is notably for his design of the Helpmann Trophy for live performance in Australia.
Hendrik Forster’s iron sculptures have a beautiful patina. The oxidizing agent has been splashed on creating various effects, dappled, running down from the roofs in streaks, dripping on the walls. The series of twelve sculptures are formal exploration of architectural forms of the domus (or “house” for you plebeians who don’t savvy Latin). Actually not all the sculptures are of houses there are also churches and factories with sawtooth roofs. The architectural forms have been simplified, there are no doors, windows or other details – these are not models of buildings but sculptures about the space that buildings occupy. Only on the roof of “Himmel Street Houses” there is the repeated pattern of bombers, a reference to Markus Zusak’s novel The Book Thief (Picador, 2008).
The Forsters live in East Gippsland and were, coincidentally, visiting the gallery at the same time that I was there. They were checking on the exhibition at the halfway point and I got a chance to speak with Hendrik Forster about his wife’s sculpture. He told me about searching through rural junk shops for the found materials and the aura of reused materials.