The original upcycler

THE saying “one man’s trash is another’s treasure” is amplified by Fremantle artist Theo Koning.

The veteran sculptor garners all manner of objects from the beach, skip-bins or verges; anything that takes his eye and can be transformed into a stunning artwork.

His studio is neatly crammed with an assortment of bits and pieces and Koning has much in common wit the Japanese notion of wabi-sabi – finding beauty in imperfection, and acceptance of the natural cycle of birth, growth, death and decay.

Strange shapes grow out of unrelated objects forming fascinating pieces, some large, but most on a very human scale.

In his latest exhibition Fragments of Language the sculptures are informed by the polyglot of languages heard during a residency in Basel.


• Theo Koning’s studio is a treasure trove of other people’s trash. File photo

“I’d be sitting on the tram by myself hearing people talking…you want to attach meaning [but can’t],” Koning says.

He was in Switzerland for a six-month residency at the Atelier Christoph Merian Foundation, rubbing shoulders with artists from a dozen different countries – and even more perspectives on art.

“You are in a world where nothing is like here, and you are always picking up little bits of information,” Koning says.

“Basil, and Europe are quite abstract in their language…exhibitions can be very dry. It can be just two black stripes – sometimes just painted on a wall.


An electronic concert that was an audio mix of sounds of the sea, with bells tolling, the creak of ropes and the slap of water on boat hulls inspired Fragments: “It came into my head this [collection] is about fragments of sound and language.”

Unable to bring everything he’d made in Switzerland back home, Fragments is a mix of sculptures from his time in Basel and those created in his studio, including pieces sculpted from left-over timber after UWA’s Winthrop Hall organ was renovated.

Other objects came from an old friend who willed him the contents of her huge shed, including a piece in the show that’s not for sale: “It’s my talisman,” Koning says of the timber slab cross-hatched with deep cuts.

Running in conjunction is Siné MacPherson’s Still Lifes, a series of paintings of flower-decked white crosses on the roadside, some evocatively titled with the name of those who died, and one heartbreakingly called “only fifteen”.

Both exhibitions are on at Turner Galleries, 470 William Street, Northbridge, until October 1.


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