06 Mar Manapan Furniture is making its presence felt.
The original article published in the Age was a great boon for the work that we are doing for the indigenous Millingimby community..
For decades, the street was dotted with factories, but now apartments are starting to appear, along with a cafe and a striking new gallery, designed by Jon Mikulic, director of Newline Design.
Originally a 1970s orange-brick factory, with the first floor previously used as a yoga studio and an artists’ space, the 400-squaremetre building is now an office for Mikulic (first floor ) and a unique furniture gallery at ground level.
“The building was literally gutted. The only thing retained were these pendant lights,” says Mikulic, pointing out the ’70s pendants hanging from the concrete ceiling.
Given the hard interface to the street, with barely a street tree, Mikulic was keen to soften the edge of the gallery. He inserted large steel and glass windows and a door, as well as cutting into the brick fa¸ade and inserting a series of steel planters. Those strolling past can now see into the entire space, with furniture from Manapan and Lineal.
Manapan is an Indigenous notfor-profit initiative from Ramvek’s founder and director Mark White, while Lineal encompasses Mikulic’s furniture designs. “Mark and I wanted a showroom that could display both furniture and lighting ranges,” says Mikulic. “We didn’t want the place to be overly fussy, something that allowed each piece of furniture to ‘breathe’ .”
The 200-square-metre-space was virtually gutted with the brick walls bagged and painted white.
The concrete floor was given a white epoxy finish to maximise the reflections from the northern light.
One of the few divisions in the gallery is the unusual mild steel screen, with its rough slabs of radiata pine fashioned into sliding doors. “I wanted the steel to evoke the grain of the timber, ‘bark -tobark ’ [the entire tree],” says Mikulic, who wanted to create a studio at the rear to allow designers to work with different finishes and to prototype new designs. The Manapan collection of furniture is all produced by Indigenous craftspeople on Miliingimbi Island in Arnhem Land, and designed by some of Melbourne’s leading creatives; Mikulic, Suzie Stanford, Liz Doube, Ashleigh Parker, Alexsandra Pontonio and Chloe Walbran. To allow people to see what these pieces would look like in a domestic setting, Mikulic has included photography by Marnie Haddad, now forging a name for herself in Europe, and Chris Tovo, and paintings by well-known Indigenous artists such as Gloria Petyarre, Kieren Karritpul and Mick Wikilyiri.
Mikulic’s ‘Love Seat’ for example, made from pine, leather and wallaby skin, and inspired by Victorian love seats, ‘speaks’ to Haddad’s photo ‘Two Lovers’ .
“Some pieces stand on their own, such as Suzie Stanford’s reptilianlike carved floor lights, while others, such as the Love Seat work beautifully with a photo,” he adds.
Parker’s sideboard is also given another dimension when placed in front of a photo of the Indigenous craftspeople on the Milingimbi Island, thousands of miles away producing Parker’s design.
White and Mikulic saw this space not only as a gallery, but also as an event space to hold functions, such as the unveiling of Manapan and Lineal. “We’re focusing on work that’s produced by Australians, whether it’s furniture, lighting, photography or fine art,” says Mikulic.
Although Mikulic has his own separate office , boardroom, breakout area, and open-plan work areas for his staff on the first floor , he enjoys working from his laptop from the rear of the gallery, opening doors to those passing by (or those who have made appointments).
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