Robert Baines is known for work in jewellery and for larger, complex hollow ware, which often combines precious materials such as gold with high-technology materials such as titanium. This set of vessels and a tray, in the format of the traditional tea and coffee service, uses function as a starting point for a complex assemblage of forms and interactions of material, light and volume. Its title, La Columbella, derives from the important Etruscan archaeological site of Columbella at Palestrina and refers to Baines' research into the techniques of ancient goldsmithing.1 Its exaggerated, multi-angled forms and geometric contrasts also satirise the exuberant Italian interpretation of Post-Modernism in the 1980s. The qualities of each part of this set are enhanced through the complex polished and corrugated surfaces of the silver. The intricate series of fine drill holes on the black lids are an abstraction of the ancient goldsmithing technique of granulation, contrasting with the handles, made from the space age material of titanium, with their repetitive pattern of dots and thermally-treated multiple colouration.
1 Baines was awarded a Winston Churchill Fellowship in 1979 to study the metalwork of Greek and Etruscan goldsmiths. His most recent support for this research was in 1997, when he received a Senior Fulbright Award to conduct a research project on Etruscan goldworks at the Sherman Fairchild Center for Object Conservation in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.
Text © National Gallery of Australia, Canberra 2010
From: Anne Gray (ed), Australian art in the National Gallery of Australia, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, 2002