Designer lived in tune with creations
By SIMON BEVILACQUA
THERE was something about Garry Greenwood's facial expressions reminiscent of Norman Lindsay's sketches of impish sprites.
Greenwood, who died from lung cancer earlier this month aged 61, had a mischievous look -- an elfin smirk.
No matter how serious Greenwood's expression, there was always a wicked smile lurking ready to make a mockery of the staid and solemn.
It was the same with his art. No matter how useful, or able to be used, his leather creations were, there was always the fantastic waiting to explode.
When Greenwood designed a leather shoe it looked like something out of a whimsical Monty Python cartoon.
When he made leather musical instruments they morphed into dragons and mythical beasts.
His work was always a tug-of-war between the logical and the illogical, the rational and irrational -- the serious and the playful.
When the Tasmanian Leather Orchestra played his instruments during the recent Ten Days on the Island festival, they worked.
The bizarre leather creations were functional musical instruments.
But below the tonal bellows and haunting shrills was an undertone of humour.
Greenwood's instruments are played, seriously, by interstate and overseas musicians, including Don Burrows, Brian Brown, Karlin Love and Barry Tuckwell.
His work has touched people worldwide.
His international CV is extensive.
Greenwood designs are publicly exhibited in the Australian Embassy in Washington in the United States, the Dutch Leather and Shoe Museum, the German Leather and Shoe Museum and the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts in Hawaii.
They are held in corporate collections in Spain, Canada and Japan.
His fame extends worldwide with private buyers rushing to acquire his work.
His designs are held in private collections throughout Australia, Europe, Japan and the US.
He has held hundreds of solo exhibitions everywhere from the Shearin' Shed in Sydney in 1972 to the International Leather Conference in Switzerland in 1998.
Garry Cleveland, the founder of the Design Centre and longtime supporter of design in Tasmania, is in no doubt about Greenwood's place in history.
"He was without doubt one of the two great creative designers working in Tasmania,"Mr Cleveland said.
He rated Greenwood alongside acclaimed wood designer Kevin Perkins.
"Those two were leaders in their fields in the world," he said.
Greenwood enhanced Tasmania's artistic reputation.
"He was so good his reputation reflected on Tasmania."
Mr Cleveland is not his only admirer.
Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery director Chris Tassell said Greenwood had developed an enviable international reputation.
"For over 20 years Garry has made a significant contribution to Tasmania's reputation in the visual arts," Mr Tassell said.
"His work epitomised contemporary Tasmania's aspiration to be at, and benefit from, the cutting edge of creativity."
The curator of the Grainger Collection at the University of Melbourne, Brian Allison, said Greenwood had gone where no one had been before.
"Garry's masterful technique in working with leather coupled with a brilliant sense of design placed him in a unique position as a sculptor and experimenter in the area of musical technology," he said.
"His extraordinary freedom of imagination, coupled with an exploration of the acoustic properties of leather over more than two decades, has literally given birth to new sounds -- new acoustic possibilities that are generated by sculptural objects of great beauty."
A public celebration of Greenwood's life and work will be held at the Queen Victoria Museum and Art Gallery at Inveresk on Saturday at 6pm. RSVP by Thursday on 6323 3777.