::: ART, CRAFT & DESIGN



Creative whimsy
from a master of
the unexpected

By ELEONORA COURT | In a doctor’s study in Hobart stands an unusual metal cabinet. Neatly etched onto its silvery-grey surface are the words:

“Mr Hill enjoyed being on the water, it was the thought of the underneath that made him anxious”.

The cabinet suits its owner’s purposes well. Topped by a separate lockable compartment, four seamlessly finished file drawers open and close with an action that’s smooth as silk. Everything about its fabrication speaks of fastidious workmanship.

But it was that inscription, and the strange assortment of sea creatures cruising around the front and sides of the cabinet, that struck an instant chord with GP and scuba enthusiast, Jim Marwood, now its proud possessor. “The moment I laid eyes on it I knew I had to have it”, he says, “ because it told my story.”

… they are three-dimensional metaphors, fantastical depositories for guilty secrets, discarded dreams, intimate mementos of childhood.

It’s hard not to fall instantly in love with the work of Patrick Hall. His elaborate cabinets, at once functional objects and idiosyncratic flights of fancy, appeal directly to the emotions.

Loaded with mystery, sensuality and meaning, they are three-dimensional metaphors, fantastical depositories for guilty secrets, discarded dreams, intimate mementos of childhood.

Hall confesses that he’s “totally obsessed by the notion of cabinet and storage”. But the fact that his creations happen to be functional objects is a secondary issue. “There’s a physical interaction with somebody opening a drawer, placing an object in and closing that secret space away. The contributory meaning that someone brings to a piece of domestic furniture interests me, but I really use them as vehicles for exploring my own ideas”.

… we know that once something is past, it's never attainable again, so I think all of my work has a certain wistfulness

Hall sees his cabinets as “systems of classification” by which he can examine “the ways that we humans try and understand something about ourselves. Part of that is a process of collecting objects from the past that can be evaluated against a possible future. These pieces that I make, that have these multiple drawers, are always connected with this notion of ‘What makes us ‘us’?”

His work is infused with nostalgia; obsolescent artefacts and superseded technologies fascinate him. “I’m drawn to materials that speak of a certain redundancy. Not that the past was better than the future, but we know that once something is past, it’s never attainable again, so I think all of my work has a certain wistfulness”.

The 24 drawers of Silent Recordings, for example, are faced with glass-fronted panels. Behind the glass on each of the panels, Hall has fixed an old 78 shellac record, from which he’d removed the centre, replacing it with an intricately crafted miniature object in silver metal. As he explains, “For me it is about that recording of time – the 78 record has a language we can’t understand anymore, it’s a language of the past that’s recorded on this surface.” Continued …

PART I | PART II

STOP PRESS: August 20 2004. Patrick Hall is our first Treasured Tasmanian. Details here

EXCLUSIVE: A moving feast — a Patrick Hall portfolio

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