Australian Art for Mid-Century Spaces

Tim Ross on ABC Televion program Streets Of Your Town, 2016.

When we look closely at classic mid-century homes, we often see carefully curated spaces that convey the tastes, values, and aspirations of their owners. But there is much more to these interiors than furniture and lighting.  Whether it be paintings, ceramics, glass, textiles or sculptures, such art works play a major role in turning a room of vintage pieces into a dynamic interior that invites relaxation and/or contemplation.
So how do you go about choosing art for a mid-century inspired interior? Well that depends on a number of factors, such as room size, budget and personal taste. Everyone is different, therefore it’s important that you embrace your individuality and select artworks that are meaningful to you. Avoid making choices based on colour schemes or matching your furniture. Be bold and trust your judgement.

Sydney Ball, Canto IX, 2002-2003.

Whereas some people like to buy only mid-century artworks, I think it’s good to mix it up. As much as I admire mid-century design, I don’t want to feel like I’m living in a museum. Contemporary art is a great way to add visual interest and at the same time support the creative economy.

Rather than buying prints, always buy original artworks. If you would never buy a copy of a vintage chair, why would you buy a cheap print?Auction houses and artist run spaces are great sources of affordable original artworks.

Buying art is an adventure, be open minded and take the time to learn about art history. The more you learn about art, the more you will appreciate the art in your space. It’s also a good idea to read up on particular artists you like. It’s good to get a sense of the way their work has evolved over the years and what their work is all about. You may find that you only like work from a certain period, or you may just think everything by that artist is simply brilliant. But when it comes to buying that original artwork, only buy what you like, not what you think others might like. Remember, the main thing is that you feel a connection to the work.

David Aspden, Window IV, 1968.

There is original art to fit all tastes and budgets. If you like to collect, then small works on paper are often good value, and are also a great way to build your art collection. If size matters, then look for large works that will compliment your space. Sometimes a collection of small art works on one wall can be just as engaging, and have as much impact as a single large scale work.

If all this talk has got you thinking about art, then check out the fantastic Re-Purpose exhibition at Drill Hall Gallery in Canberra. Re-Purpose runs from Fri 11 November — Sun 18 December 2016 and features work by 3 generations of international and Australian artists. You can also read a review of the exhibition.

Here are just a few of my favourite Australian contemporary artists.

Peter Atkins: EP PROJECT, 2016.

Dana Harris: spoolworks 2010 – 12, yarn spools bound with cotton thread, variable dimensions.

Emma Langridge: Except, 2016 enamel / acrylic on wood
approx 30 x 20cm.


Kenji Uranishi: Momentary, a collection of ceramic works exhibited
at Brisbane Museum.

Momentary, a collection of ceramic works exhibited at Brisbane Museum.


Jane Brown: Outback netball, White Cliffs, New South Wales, 2014/16.


Bryan Spier Multiplicity, 2011 Synthetic polymer on canvas board 30 x 40cm.


Why you shouldn’t buy replica vintage furniture.

The interest In post-war design, especially furniture, continues to
grow and with this comes demand, and with that demand comes
higher prices as buyers haggle over rare and original pieces.
In a market where vintage pieces have become status symbols for
‘designer couples’ and savvy urbanites who want to show off their
design literacy, the replica has emerged as a sure sign that many
people are perhaps more engaged with the LOOK rather than the
ongoing preservation of post-war design.

But as offensive as I find the idea of a replica vintage chair in all it’s
diluted glory, It’s the act of buying a replica that is far worse than the cheap
ubiquitous copies of iconic designer pieces which litter homes, offices
and renovation tv programs.

So what is it that makes a replica so attractive? I get the cheap price factor
and I too love a bargain, which is why I shop on eBay, and go to Sunday Markets,
Op shops and auction houses. But I certainly don’t feel comfortable about
contributing to an idustry which is stealing the intellectual property of a designer
just to make a quick buck. To me, It’s like making a bad copy of a classic painting
and leaving out all the subtle nuances and details that made the work great in the
first place. But worse than that, who would want such a thing?

Some may argue that replicas make designer objects more accessible to everyone,
but that simply isn’t true as you are not getting an original, you are often paying
good money for an inferior quality reproduction that doesn’t deliver the quality,
comfort, craftsmanship or history that comes with buying an original vintage
piece of furniture.

On a more serious note, fake designer furniture is also a part of a global
counterfeiting trade that is often run by crime gangs who use child labour
in dingy sweatshops to make your designer knock-off. The money raised
is then channelled into more lucrative businesses such as human trafficking,
drugs, weapons, organ harvesting, etc. I urge you to read the following article
Fight against fake designer goods isn’t frivolous by Dana Thomas before
you buy a counterfeit designer chair or product.

Price is an issue for most of us, unless you’re rolling in cash, but price is not a good
enough reason to support a replica market that is in the business of stealing other
peoples creative ideas. For those who dont feel like they need to be a slave to the
lifestyle magazines, you will be pleased to know that you can buy top quality furnishings
and pay far less than a replica piece that you will end up throwing out in a year or two.
You just need to take a risk and be confident about what you like. Afterall, it’s
unlikely that your friends will call the design police because you don’t have a
replica Eames lounge chair. And if they did, the likelihood is that they will be
the ones who will be charged with bad taste.

There are loads of excellent buys to be had and it all starts with a bit of homework.
You need to be prepared to do a bit of research and in some cases a little bit of
restoration. Great pieces by Australian designers Fred Lowen (Fler) and Fred Ward
can be bought for under $100 on a regular basis, and they are much more
interesting than your everyday classics. Buy a lounge by Danish deluxe, Parker,
etc and have it covered in a contemporary fabric for far less than a lounge from
a popular furniture chain store. Why ikea wnen you can recover and reinvent?
Your friends will be so envious when they discover that they can’t just pick it up
at the local store, so you may have to give them a little guidance on how
to trust their inner designer.

What’s really nice about buying REAL vintage pieces is that you are recycling
and thus having a far less negative impact on gobal emissions, etc. Also, you
get to be a part of the story that comes with each piece. All the wrinkles and
blemishes tell the story of your furniture’s life, buying a replica piece is like
giving your granny botox. Yes, not a nice image, but fortunately it is avoidable
by simply crossing the road or averting your gaze whenever you are near
one of those awful replica furniture stores.

Also, if you are buying Australian designs, you get to be apart of a great bunch
of people who are out there preserving our design heritage. Forget about the
cultural cringe, some great furniture was made in Australia throughout the
post-war years and there is something to suit every taste and budget.
From Krimper, Featherston, Meadmore, Fler, Danish Deluxe, and a host
of small manufacturers, it’s not that hard to rescue a piece of our design
history and build an interior that reflects your originality and shows
your appreciation of post-war design.

Modernist Dream Homes

If you are anything like me and you long for lazy days spent lounging
around your post-war dream home, then Modernist Australia  is
the website for you. It’s a website dedicated to Australian post-war
architecture, from the most humble peppermint beach shack through
to designer icons such as homes by Boyd, Round, Seidler and  Romberg.

Find out the top modernist suburbs, or join the forum to chat about
renovations and mid century decor. A note of caution, once you start trawling
through the list of properties you may have to send out for supplies.
I recommend a platter of salada biscuits with Coon cheese and cocktail onions.
Then kick back in your Roger McLay ‘Kone’ chair and wash it all down with a
fruity glass of  Mateus Rose.