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Share the city you live in ... Autumn
It's a hard time for dreamers. ough we
love our art, though it feeds the soul,
in times of economic insecurity, it's an
expendable luxury. But what about when art
and money become one?
We handle money every day, spending
it by the millions, but rarely do we stop
to examine the fine detail in the intricate
designs imprinted on these miniature
masterpieces. Money is the art form
accessible to all, which every Australian has
seen, held and used. Yet how many of us
know who designs the images, from where
they draw their inspiration or exactly what
the process involves?
Wojciech Pietranik knows. For 20 years
he has designed for the Royal Australian
Mint some of the most precious coins ever
produced, a selection of which were on
display at his recent exhibition 'Striking Art:
Lasting Impressions'. One could say he has
found the perfect balance between making
art and making money -- a figuratively
When Wojciech (pronounced Voy-check)
swung open the door of his 'office', the first
thing I noticed was the bright, white apron
that covered the most part of him.
"I'm 'cooking'," he explained.
He motioned me into the room, but
paused to reassure me that it's a studio
as opposed to an office, and I noted the
distinction as a reflection on how he sees his
world. An office is a place of business where
one carries out various clerical duties. A
studio is where one creates.
On the topic of creating, Wojciech was
adamant that there was never a question
about his creative licence at the Mint.
" ey give me and my colleagues a lot of
freedom," he said.
"Of course we get given a topic, but the
boundaries which apply to coin designing
for the Mint are mostly technical.
"For example the design must be struck
within the dimensions of the circle, and in
3D work, you're restricted by specifications
on the height of the engraving.
"But it's up to us to come up with the
design -- one that is aesthetically pleasing
and communicative of the theme. "
Communicativeness in coinage, Wojciech
told me, is a key focus for any coin designer.
"You can use a picture that is more or
less symbolic already, which people will
recognise straight away," he said.
"For example, a few years ago we released
a coin marking the anniversary of the
Second World War and we used the famous
"From the first time I saw that footage
he became a symbol of the happiness in
Australia when the war ended. So in the
case of that picture, even if you placed it
somewhere out of context, people would
still recognise it and what it symbolised.
"When the topic of the coin is more
abstract, it's no longer just a question of
composition and making it beautiful, but
the challenge of portraying a multi-faceted
idea on a little coin. "
To illustrate his point, Wojciech sited a
coin he designed for the Mint last year to
mark the 60th anniversary of Australian
citizenship. Seven individual faces circle
a miniscule depiction of the Earth, their
raised hands linked to form the Star of
Federation. Upon further inspection, I saw
that seven seemingly random squares in an
outer circle contain fragmented pieces of an
" ey are bringing Australia together by
coming together," explained Wojciech.
"My take on it was that we all came from
all over the world, we are living, building the
nation together, the natives and new comers,
the world and Australia -- all these different
bits of information have to be turned into a
symbol that's meaningful.
It's the age-old dilemma of an artist; how do you maintain the
integrity of your art while still making money? DIONE VAN-HEER
believes Wojciech Pietranik has found the perfect solution.
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