Review: ‘Ice Structure’ by Kirsten Haydon at Gallery Funaki, Melbourne

Exhibition dates: 24th May 2011 – 18th June 18 2011


Kirsten Haydon. 'ice objects', 2011


Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice objects
Enamel, copper, reflector beads
Various dimensions



“Confronted by the immensity and power of desert and ice, one cannot simply stand to the side and evaluate as though one were standing before a landscape garden and other works of art. Conflicting emotions, including fear, are aroused and simultaneously absorbed or taken over by the overmastering presence of nature.”

Yi Fu Tuan. Desert and Ice: Ambivalent Aesthetics, 1993



There are many things to like about this exhibition: the fine craftsmanship, the forms, the observation and the beauty of some of the pieces. The symbolism is simple and effective – re-imaged relics of white, vitreous enamel objects from the huts of Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, the use of reflector beads to imitate snow and Meccano-like steel girders to symbolise human construction and encroachment on a pristine land.

Some of the ‘objects’ remind me of the beauty and simplicity of Etruscan vessels, seemingly delicate apports, being the transference of an article from one place and time to another; the use of reflector beads at the bottom of ice sample (2011, below) is also inspired. So too is the occlusion of the image in the brooch ice plane (2011, below) which adds further mystery to an already surreal landscape. One piece is absolutely stunning. The wonderful neckpiece ice movement (2011, see two photographs below) is ravishing in it’s articulation and form, its snow-covered twig-like coolness.

Unfortunately where the exhibition fails is in the use of banal images in several works such as ice depot, ice runway, ice industry (brooch, all 2011, not pictured) and ice industry (2011, neckpiece, below). The obvious point being made is that of man made construction in a pristine landscape but the simple symbology used so effectively in other pieces becomes a little awkward in these pieces. The images used are quite ugly and while this fits the symbolic use of them it doesn’t make for very interesting or illuminating art. There needed to be more layering for the message to be effective – which is why the occluded brooch works so well, human construction blinded, dissolved.

This is a pity because the rest of the exhibition is excellent. Enter this ice world and you will be delightfully surprised!

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Katie Scott for her help and Gallery Funaki for allowing me to publish the photographs and text in the posting. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image.



Kirsten Haydon. 'ice edge' and 'ice sheet flow' both 2011


Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice edge (left)
2011, enamel, reflector beads, copper, silver
60 x 350 x 210 mm

ice sheet flow (right)
Enamel, reflector beads, copper, silver
70 x 130 x 195 mm


Kirsten Haydon. 'ice plane', brooch, 2011


Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice plane
Enamel, photo transfer, reflector beads, silver, copper, steel
80 x 80 x 10 mm


Kirsten Haydon. 'ice movement', neckpiece, 2011


Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice industry
enamel, copper, photo transfer, paint, silver
280 x 160 x 10 mm



I make jewellery and objects that both connect to and explore human experience and place. Since Antarctica’s discovery explorers, expeditioners, artists and writers have attempted to record and visualise this isolated continent. In 2004 I was awarded a New Zealand Antarctic Arts Fellowship en joined those who communicate their experiences of Antarctica.

Antarctica is often regarded as a pristine yet harsh environment, home to extraordinary wildlife and the domain of scientists. Due to its remoteness projects that are supported by international Antarctic programmes are predominantly science-based and as a result artistic research in Antarctica is limited. The cultural theorist, Yi Fu Tuan describes the experience of the explorer as: “the longing to be taken out of oneself and ones habitual world into something vast, overpowering and indifferent.” His statement resonates with my experience of Antarctica where I found myself drawn to the minutiae of the ice crystal and the structures and forms that I could associate with in the extraordinary landscape. While in that place, so removed from the conventions of civilisation, I came to understand the immensity of nature and to see that it exists without the necessity for human presence …

Inside the historic huts of Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton I was captivated by the history, contained both in the interior spaces themselves and in the material artefacts left by the expeditioners … These seemingly mundane objects are transformed into a still life of significant artefacts of a previous time, preserving the memory and story of their parties of explorers.

My interpretations engage through the iconography of personal jewellery, domestic objects and the environment of Antarctica. In the course of making I continue to investigate and portray Antarctica through my own and others’ personal experiences. The objects I produce reference valued souvenir jewellery and objects now displayed in museums as historical artefacts, which were once personal mementos …

Excerpts from the catalogue text by Kirsten Haydon May 2011


Kirsten Haydon. 'ice movement' neckpiece 2011


Kirsten Haydon. 'ice movement' neckpiece 2011


Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice movement
Enamel, copper, reflector beads, silver


Kirsten Haydon. 'ice sample', object, 2011


Kirsten Haydon (New Zealand, b. 1973)
ice sample
Enamel, copper, reflector beads



Gallery Funaki

This gallery has now closed.

Gallery Funaki website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, an art and cultural memory archive, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

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