When the largest archaeological dig in Victorian history took place in the heart of the CBD as part of the Metro Tunnel Project in 2018, more than a million artefacts were found. Remains such as wheel ruts, cesspits, bluestone fittings and timber structures were among the findings, most dating back more than 180 years to the early days of European settlement in Melbourne.
While significant items are now stored permanently by Heritage Victoria, many thousands of discovered fragments from the dig including broken glass, shards of porcelain, wire and shells were deemed not significant enough to be retained for heritage purposes.
Unwilling to see these ‘discarded’ pieces of history go to waste, Craft Victoria has collaborated with the Metro Tunnel Creative Program to engage 10 artists to reimagine these fragments for their latest exhibition, ‘Unearthed.’
From ceramic amphorae, intimate pieces of jewellery, to contemporary objects and lighting, the 10 artists have created new, repurposed works that reinterpret this part of history of Melbourne city.
Potter Jack Balfour says, ‘There’s a lot of unknowns when you’re grinding down rust-encrusted nails, shells or slate… This material-led design has brought new freedom to the way I work. I’m usually controlled and considered in every element of my practice and having the opportunity to go into a bag full of fragments that have a strong connection to Melbourne – that’s brought delight to what I’ve been making.’
Jack has created 22 vessels for the exhibition, using unearthed fragments including rust, copper wire and basalt to create mesmerising chemical reactions and textures on his pottery.
Ceramicist Tantri Mustika harnessed a kaleidoscope of glass fragments to create textured vessels in her signature terrazzo style. ‘Working with these found materials has been a special and rare experience. Finding beauty in material that has been long ago lost and forgotten, and reimagining them as something beautiful whilst still maintaining their form in which they were found.’
Also working with glass fragments are artist Iluka Sax-Williams and glass artist Dan Bowran, who have transformed these shards into ‘Coolamons’ – a traditional item used by Indigenous people to hold water, food and resources.
So too has artist Juan Castro, who has created a striking light installation made from glass fragments and resin; ‘On first hearing about this project, I began to think about the idea of making light from something that has been dark for so long,’ he explains.
Other items in the exhibition include; vessels made from glass and bookbinding thread by Jenna Lee; two sets of gardening tools foraged from a pickaxe by Claire McArdle; intricate jewellery pieces by Ruby Aitchison; and ‘broached pins’ by Dale Hardiman and ACV Studio.
‘Unearthed’ is open from 1 October – 31 October at Craft Victoria.
Watson Place, Melbourne (off Flinders Lane)
Tuesday to Friday, 11am – 5pmSaturday, 11am – 4pm