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The Art Gallery of Western Australia pauses to remember Mari Funaki, one of Australia's most significant jewellers and artists.

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Friday 14 May 2010

Mari Funaki: 1950-2010

Mari Funaki was one of Australia’s and the world’s most significant jewellers and artists. Born in 1950 in Matsue, Japan, Funaki arrived in Melbourne in 1979 and graduated from the Gold & Silversmithing course at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in 1992. Soon after this, in 1995, she opened Gallery Funaki in central Melbourne, the home to her own work and some of the Australia and the world’s most innovative jewellery practitioners.

Funaki’s work gave nothing away easily. Instead, Mari made objects to be found and not to be found. The work, hinting at a secret it might contain, holds some indefinable yet palpable thing in reserve and this reserve is the location of an intense imaginative power. While ostensibly crisp and rather formal in feel, there is a profound darkness in her work as they appear both animal- and architecture-like in their continual organic/inorganic formation and re-formation. Funaki’s work as a ‘body of work’ achieved its power thanks to its consistency. There were no ‘phases’ as such, no movements from this type of making to that. The work was perfectly defined from the start.

Funaki discovered the container form – her central motif - in the period between her three year degree and her honours year at RMIT. She had returned for a visit to Japan. It was spring and she was walking in a local park with her nephew who was interested in insects. He picked up a beetle. As Mari recalled, ‘it was so beautiful and I held it in my hand and studied it, moving it around in my fingers’. This was, she felt, ‘the three dimensional world, and I suddenly saw it so differently. It was a secret little world. There was so much expression, intricacy and unusual form in the beetle’. This revelation would be the inspiration for some of her most important works from that point on, with even the forms of her most current rings and bracelets able to be traced back to that single, potent moment. In 2009, the Art Gallery of Western Australia was very proud to present the exhibition ‘Mari Funaki works: 1992-2009’ celebrating her considerable achievements across these forms.

Mari will be greatly missed by all in the Australian and international craft communities. She will also be mourned well beyond these sectors as her inspiring and accessible work was enormously popular, with fans and devoted collectors from all walks of life intensely engaged with each and every item she made. Mari will be deeply missed for her generosity of spirit as a guiding light to so many makers in this country. Through her own work and her visionary practice as Director of Gallery Funaki, she transformed what was considered possible in the field of contemporary jewellery.


Mari Funaki, Ring 2006, Art Gallery of Western Australia

Ring 2006
18k white gold
2.1 x 2.2 x 1.6 cm
State Art Collection,
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Purchased with funds from the
Peter Fogarty Design Fund 2006

 

Mari Funaki, works 1992-2009 - installation view, Art Gallery of Western Australia

Mari Funaki, works 1992 - 2009

installation view, Art Gallery of Western Australia,
27 June - 18 October 2009

 

 

Mari Funaki, Container 2006 - Art Gallery of Western Australia

 

Container 2006
heat-coloured mild steel
33.0 x 62.7 x 11.1 cm
State Art Collection,
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Purchased with funds from the
Peter Fogarty Design Fund 2006

 

Mari Funaki, Bracelet 2006, Art Gallery of Western Australia

Bracelet 2006
heat-coloured mild steel
4.1 x 7.6 x 6.6 cm
State Art Collection,
Art Gallery of Western Australia
Purchased with funds from the
Peter Fogarty Design Fund 2006

 

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