17 May 2010

In Memory of Mari Funaki

Last week Mari died after a long struggle with cancer.

She has been a very significant figure in my life, both as a gallery director, and as a maker whom I admired, so it is with a pained heart that I try to express these things. My sympathy goes out to all who knew her.

For those unfamiliar, these are some of her works; very intuitive arrangements of planes- and she had a gifted sense of the 'space between' - I wish I had my own photos of these works- we all have a different eye, and there is plenty more to see amidst the gaps and edges of Mari's work.

(pics from Funaki)

Recalling how I met Mari...

During my 2nd year of university studies in Gold and Silversmithing, I began to feel guilty about devoting myself to something that wasnt... I dont know, saving the world? So, I quit.

Strangely, given that I had just quit- Mari saw my work in the end-of-year student exhibition, and invited me to visit her gallery and show her some more of my work.

Nerve-wracking indeed!

I was 19 years old- or maybe just barely 20.

I vividly remember walking to this appointment, up Crossley St, with very sweaty palms, clutching a wooden box of my trinkets.

Though small, Gallery Funaki is very prestigious in this genre, representing internationally acclaimed makers like Otto K├╝nzli and Karl Fritsch.

Sitting at the back of the single-roomed gallery, beautiful and elegantly dressed (as always), was Mari. Expecting rejection, I laid out my jewellery for her consideration. Some of it she liked, some not...

And so it has been for the last 10 or so years.

When she would assess any of my new work, she would be straight up with me, rejecting anything that she wasn't sure of.

"mmm, I dont know...what do you think?"

or just straight out -" I do not understand this one."

I was thinking that she was just like that with me- but other artists have told me the same story.

This is what kept the calibre of her gallery so high.

To be honest, I was afraid of disappointing her, which would freeze me up completely at times- and so just not make much jewellery- no doubt to her actual disappointment! She was gracious about this- she must have believed in my potential.

To my great relief, I was able to thank Mari before she died, and to express to her how much of an honour it has been to be represented at her gallery- how this has dignified my work, and thereby dignified me... quite a gift, when I think about it.

I will miss having someone who was hard to impress, and whose praise was never empty platitude.

I will miss her honesty.

Mari, I will miss you, your voice stays with me. Until we meet again!


  1. Thanks David,
    We second that emotion.
    mal E + Bh (Malcolm Enright & Barbara Heath

  2. Very nicely said David, I didn't know Mari well but greatly admired her.
    I have the pleasure of wearing one of her rings everyday as it is my commitment ring from my partner,I feel very lucky to have such a beautiful piece of art to carry with me daily.
    I will think of her often.

  3. beautiful words, and of course, her beautiful work.
    thank you for sharing your insights and memories of her.
    i proudly wear a ring of Mari's and remember her wanting to meet my husband and i for coffee to properly 'gift' it to me. so thoughtful and considerate.
    a sad and great loss to melbourne's artistic community.