Kontemporary Koru

New Zealand''s Koru art finds niche with Asian buyers.

For those who don't yet know, "Koru" is a New Zealand Maori word, which captures the essence of design and nature. The "Koru" shape is characterised by the young unfurling fern frond reaching towards the light, striving for perfection, evoking new beginnings in a spiral of mathematically divine proportions.

Specialising in Koru art, Mark Joyce and his partner (who goes by the name CC) founded Koru-hk because they saw a niche in the Asian market for supplying artwork from New Zealand: one because New Zealand is "hot" in the market place, two because prices are competitive and creative innovation high.

Both partners grew up in New Zealand where it is quite commonplace for your neighbour to have a wood lathe in the garage; a pottery wheel in the back shed and an easel propped up in the spare corner of the dining room. In the initial stages, Koru concentrated on smaller decorative pieces, wooden bowls inlaid with metal, beautiful glass platters with scattering of stars across the surface and hand-blown vases shot with exquisite colours.

A lot of Mark and CC's clients have become dedicated collectors of Koru-hk.com sculpture and objets d'art, so it is no surprise that word has got out and the company is also attracting attention from Hong Kong's big property developers, interior designers and architecture companies.

Mark says that the pair initially focused on the local market when they set up their cyber-based gallery. "Having a land-based gallery was never our intention," he said, and consequently the cyber gallery has attracted art collectors from throughout the world, which has encouraged Koru to also source further afield than New Zealand.

With this in mind, Mark and CC who personally seek and research Koru-hk.com's product, have widened their net into Italy, Prague, Denmark and Taiwan from both reputable and up-and-coming artists including Afredo Barbini, Simone Cenedese, Sunny Wang, Bohumil Elias, Josef Marek, Tobias Mohl and Trine Drivsholm.

CC says that when they first started their business, many successful artists thought that Hong Kong was just a city of skyscrapers, that was very business-driven, and feared their work would not move on the market. But their artwork was met with enthusiasm by a receptive audience looking for something contemporary but notably individual. The magnificent sheen and polish of the wooden sculptures, the curve and soft luminosity of Koru's cast-glass works has found a following.

A selection of stock is always available for viewing in Mark & CC's apartment in Admiralty, by appointment. Specifically designed areas of the apartment display pieces of glass, ceramic and wood. Lighting is always important say the pair, to maximise the inherent qualities of such artwork.

On entering the apartment the visitor is captured by the works of Italy's master glass artist Barbini. These are hand-signed, fascinating works, forms submerged in a block of glass, and he perfected this seamless glassmaking technique in Murano, Italy.

Above these sit finely turned wooden bowls inlaid with silver, sharks' teeth and metal by New Zealand wood artist John Ecuyer, juxtaposed with work by New Zealand glass blower Garry Nash. Of international acclaim, Nash's platters are scattered with pinpricks of stars against azure blue set off by a burnt orange band around the rim.

Next is a work by New Zealand glass blowers Ola and Marie Höglund who trained with Kosta Boda in their home country Sweden. They count Sir Elton John, Mohammed Ali and Bill Clinton among their collectors - layers upon layers of colour wrapped within clear glass forms.

Across the hall is a display stand supporting a glass tower. It's slightly askew to intentionally disturb the viewer, and cast in blue glass it plays with light, depth and translucency. New Zealander Emma Camden has invested work such as this one with power and emotion.

On another shelf are wonderful sensuously shaped ceramic orbs by Peter Collis, who is considered a master of form and surface. A vermilion glaze glows in the clever backlighting. Offset also by the same lighting is a black cast-iron coloured ceramic teapot by Rick Rudd. He has exhibited internationally since 1981 and his hand-coiled scraped organic ceramics are a cross between form and function.

Crates are stacked in one corner holding newly arrived pieces. On the particular day I visited, we had the treat of prizing the lid off "Hunter". This magnificent cast glass sculpture is a jade green colour with a slightly frosted surface. It has a translucency that is breathtaking when placed against the natural back light. "Hunter" is by award-winning glass artist David Murray who initially worked in ceramics. Murray says "I try to achieve a silent presence in my work" and by the quiet reaction around me, it appears his aim has been reached.

In contrast to the large glass sculpture is a creation of abstract form carved in wood by Rick Swain. Often working with demolition timber and native exotic woods, Rick transforms his material into large sculptural vessels with ceremonial overtones. Simple in shape, his work reflects his love of human and natural forms and his technical ability has us in awe.

One multi-coloured glass panel is suspended in front of a bank of windows looking across to a new development. This panel was what started it all and is now in Mark & CC's private collection, a rainbow of coloured squares spread out across the room in the late afternoon sun.

All the art pieces are tactile and encourage the viewer to interact, running hands over surfaces imprinting on the mind coolness of glass, the velvety smoothness of timber and textured ceramics. When you close the door behind you, the pair say that people tend to no longer be fearful of "sculpture", just inspired.

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