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Luminary: Remembering Robert Foster

Emma Macdonald

Robert Foster was a luminary in the art world, forging steel into beautiful homewares which would become iconic and coveted design pieces in homes, galleries and restaurants around the world.

His untimely death in a tragic car accident in July shocked not only the Canberra community but the international design fraternity.

Foster’s contribution to art and design will be recognised as part of Canberra’s most significant design event –  DESIGN Canberra.

The annual festival, which will run from October 27 to November 25, is set to provide a range of diverse events at art centres, museums, galleries, universities, studios, workshop and homes around the city – showcasing Canberra as a global city of design.

Meanwhile, in conjunction with Foster’s famiy, friends and colleagues, DESIGN Canberra will pay homage to the Australian National University Art School graduate’s truly innovative work through an installation of some of his most significant designs.

Held on the ground floor of ActewAGL headquarters at 40 Bunda St in the city, the exhibition Luminary: Remembering Robert Foster will feature about 50 unique hand-made works, including teapots, coffee pots, jugs, vessels, containers and trays, as well as some archival documents from the family collection.

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The exhibition itself will be held alongside one of Foster’s most dramatic commissions, “The Journey” which is a spectacular group of ‘ossolites’ installed in the foyer of the ActewAGL building.

According to the artist himself “The Ossolites form drawn-out clusters of shapes in the space that appear overwhelming in scale, while having graceful and poetic lines which welcome the visitor”.

The display has been curated by Grace Cochrane, a former senior curator of Australian decorative arts and design at the Powerhouse Museum, who is now an independent curator, writer and consultant.

Foster has been described as an imaginative and resourceful designer and maker working with metals and related materials. He became well-known from the mid-1980s for his functional yet expressive hand-crafted forms.

He would go on to developed a number of designs for production through his company F!NK + Co, founded in 1994 and now operating in Queanbeyan.

Of these, the iconic F!NK jug is a prime example. Its status as both a hard-wearing household item as well as a beautiful and timeless sculptural work will be celebrated during the exhibition in an installation using 50 borrowed jugs from members of the community.

Supported since 1997 by his enterprising partner Gretel Harrison, and inspired and enthused by his daughters Ineska and Mischa, Foster constantly experimented with ideas for new forms and processes. He believed strongly in the value of working between art and manufacture, fun and function, materials and processes, expression and sustainability.

He is also remembered as a generous artist, who encouraged many emerging makers to work with him and some evolved designs which were produced through the F!NK brand and identified with their names. They, and many others, acknowledge the importance of his valuable mentorship in the development of their careers.

the essentials

What: Luminary: Remembering Robert Foster exhibition
When: 27 October – 25 November
, Monday to Friday 8.30am-5pm
Where: ActewAGL headquarters, 40 Bunda St Canberra

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Emma Macdonald

Emma Macdonald has been writing about Canberra and its people for more than 20 years, winning numerous awards for her journalism - including a Walkley or two - along the way. Canberra born and bred, she’s fiercely loyal to the city, tribally inner-north, and relieved the rest of the country is finally recognising Canberra’s cool and creative credentials. More about the Author

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