Artistic furniture designer/maker Gary Bennett finds enormous satisfaction from collaborating with other artists to create a body of work that tells a unique story. There is invaluable growth that takes place when you put more than one head on a project, tossing artistic ideas and thoughts around and taking inspiration from the different approach each artist has when looking at the same subject.
Read the below editorial by SCOOP Magazine who talked to Gary Bennett about the collaborative projects and exhibitions he has done in the past, published 2015.
A couple of surf loving hippies are making altogether different waves in pursuit of novel creative collaborations.
When Margaret River furniture designer and former carpenter Gary Bennett first came up with the idea of working with artists – including poets – people looked at his sideways. Years later, he notes with mirth that artistic collaboration among creatives has inched its way from the avant-garde edge towards the mainstream. Now, it seems, everyones doing it.
The notion of innovative inquiry and collaboration has been a central component in JahRoc, the furniture design business established with partner David Paris back in 1987, to the extent that the pair recently published a book on the theme.
Collaboration catalogues the pair’s decade-long cross-pollination campaign with the like of artists Shaun Atkinson and Larry Mitchell, the late architect Ian Bailey. poet John Kinsella, and the creative at FORM Contemporary Craft and Design. Gary describes Larry Mitchell as one of the country’s premier photorealist artists and still has to pinch himself at his good fortune in working with such talent.
“Larry reads land and seascapes so well – I’m just so chuffed that people like him want to work with a couple of woodworkers like us. We have learned so much from him in terms of seeing more than we would otherwise when interpreting landscapes in our furniture designs”, he says.
Working with Shaun Atkinson brought a different dimension to the table. “Shauns more abstracted, stripped-back approach to the landscape has taught me to read the effect of light and colour in form. In Project West Kimberly, I used silver leaf to introduce light, to great effect”.
The fruits of these engagements can be seen in a rich and expansive series of furniture designs that variously recall moody winter seascapes, crystal-clear and dappled abrolhos Island pools, and Australia’s legendary Kimberley region.
Most recently, in a collection titled Always Offshore, Gary joined forces with surfboard maker Jim Banks to craft one-off timber surfboards that have become highly prized collectors’ items.
“When two creative people turn their hearts and attention to an endeavour, they inevitably end up with something that is stronger richer, more nuanced and better that what either one of them would have come up with on their own”,
Gary is convinced that the ‘power and natural energy’ inherent in the landscapes of the capes region attracts and compels creative souls, and that harnessing that energy makes sense. The business itself was built on the notion of resource and sustainability, with timbers that were sourced from paddocks or recycled from factories and rail yards. Many of these timbers carry the distinctive patina of having endured and prevailed through drought, fire and flood, their imperfections lending a distinct and uncommon quality to the wood grain.
Gary’s work with the late architect and designer Ian Bailey, for example, produced an entire furniture range from a single fallen log that was salvaged from Boyup Brook Farm.
“One plus one equals three- it is truly compelling kind of alchemy, which has always made sense to me”.
But, how exactly does a wood craftsman- a non academic man at that – collaborate with a poet?
“John ‘s poetry seems to say the unsayable in the most succinct way – his words seem to pull all of the elements together by interpreting art, furniture, landscape and the emotions beneath them,” Gary explains. “Working with him and other artists continually inspires new and fresh ideas, and that works both ways”.