10 Artists Transform Discarded Archaeological Fragments In New Exhibition, 'Unearthed'

Unearthed‘ is an exciting new exhibition opening tomorrow at Craft Victoria in collaboration with the Metro Tunnel Creative Program. The exhibition sees 10 local artists reimagine discarded archaeological fragments from the Metro Tunnel dig site behind the Young & Jackson pub into contemporary objects with new histories.

See these captivating pieces at Craft Victoria from 1 October – 31 October, and find out more about the exhibition below!

Bea Taylor

Tantri works with glass and porcelain fragments in her signature terrazzo style to create her collection titled ‘Treasured to trashed: Trashed to treasured‘. Photo – Henry Trumble.

Artist Iluka Sax-Williams. Photo – Henry Trumble.

Marririning means ‘to renew’ in the Taungurung language. Using heating and glasswork technology, we are able to implement new techniques and convert the pieces recovered from the tunnel dig site into a new purpose,’ explains Iluka. Photo – Henry Trumble.

Artist Juan Castro created a series of hanging lights using glass fragments and resin. Photo – Henry Trumble.

Tourmaline Large‘, by Juan Castro. Photo – Henry Trumble.

Moon Jar no. 17‘, by Jack Balfour. Photo – Henry Trumble.

Potter Jack Balfour says, ‘There are a lot of unknowns when you’re grinding down rust- encrusted nails, shells or slate, but at the same time you can understand the chemistry that exists within those materials; you’re transforming them into another state.’ Photo – Henry Trumble.

Artist Jenna Lee says, ‘Working with these materials has been a new and exciting challenge – the materials themselves asking me to step outside my traditionally paper-based practice.’ Photo – Henry Trumble.

con/sumption (triptych)‘, by Jenna Lee. Photo – Henry Trumble.

Gardening Tools (set of 5) 01‘, by Claire McArdle. Photo – Henry Trumble.

Claire says, ‘It was quite interesting going through the fragments, pulling out particular pieces, and seeing what state they were in and how they had altered over time. I discovered I was particularly drawn to pieces with layers of rust, and I could see how their original forms had shifted and changed with time and being buried underground.’ Photo – Henry Trumble.

Artist Ruby Aitchison works with discarded fragments to make her intricate neckpieces. Photo – Henry Trumble.

Untitled Neckpiece 09‘, by Ruby Aitchison. Photo – Henry Trumble.

Bea Taylor
30th of September 2022

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. 

See the pieces for sale here! 

Craft Victoria
Watson Place, Melbourne (off Flinders Lane)
Tuesday to Friday, 11am – 5pmSaturday, 11am – 4pm

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