andrea mina’s models

The focused intensity of Andrea Mina’s models is startling. Given that (other than some of the earlier models) they range in size from about 150mm high down to 37mm – the top of the maker’s thumb – it is difficult to determine how they manifest such power and intensity. Each time a number of them have been displayed together, their strength seems many times multiplied. But, my task here is not to ‘explain’ them, or to give a reader a particular way to encounter them. Andrea wrote at length in his PhD and in many other places about them, and these are compelling accounts. They are not the only way you should understand his models. For you, they may not even be the most powerful or valuable way. I urge you to explore the models as presented here, to soak yourself in them and to respond through your own work. There are no overt narratives in these models, but through your inherently metaphoric readings of them allusions will surface and they will begin to be about ideas that matter to you.

Fortunately, I have had the advantage of many years of conversation and collaboration. Not only do I have personal memories and photographs of the models, I have been party to debate, dispute, report of joyous triumphs and sombre relisations of impossibility. Once, we placed all of our models on a substantial cedar dining table (far enough from the edge to avoid a large enquiring dog nose) and talked around what was going on in them, what we were each trying to do, why we (thought we) each operated as we did. Much of this came down to our perspectives on the world, our experiences, and our personal histories. Years later, Andrea pointed out to me how autobiographical my models are, and the same is true for his in less determined ways. The more you comprehend the models, the more you know about the maker.

At the School of Architecture and Design at RMIT University I once went as a guest critic for a design studio of Andrea’s and invited myself to stay. Subsequently, I joined him in conducting several more studios (the final one also taught with Alison Fairley who set digital modelling and production alongside our physical makings). The studios were mainly for interior design students, but landscape architecture and some architecture and other design students were also involved. These studios had sessions dealing with technique run by either Karen Hamilton or Kim Wearne – both of whom are interior designers and jewellers. Participants were mostly required to model ideas; they were not asked to make models of things which were extant, or to model designs for intended things. The models were final designs and the things in themselves. Every semester, in at least one studio session, Andrea would talk about his work and show projected images of a number of models. He told everyone that these detailed and complex works were small. On later seeing a model close up, responses nearly always entailed gasps or four letter expletives.

Not only is their small size compelling (partially because scrutiny requires a close involvement with them), your engagement is both troubled and excited because they were intentionally made at ‘indeterminate scale’: you can freely understand them as the size they are, or as the height of a person perhaps, or as big as a multi-storey building. All the many conversations I had with Andrea about his models leave me convinced that he was no more certain about the rightness of any such scale decision than any other viewer might be, although he was certainly determined to maintain this enigmatic ambience.

From early childhood I made models. Sometimes there were long fallow periods. The first half of the 1990s was such a time. Discovering Andrea’s models and his highly individual thinking about the world inspired and stimulated me to seriously start model making again in 1996 and to continue resolutely for the almost twenty intervening years (at the time of writing). Anyone viewing this site can also draw inspiration from his work. If you are a maker, you might respond by modifying your making; if you were once a maker, it might re-energize you. If you have never made, use his work as a goad to begin, to take small steps to make things that focus your understandings of your world, or which bring new parts of that world into being. There is no great complexity of knowledge of techniques, equipment, or processes involved in Andrea’s making. He made with his hands using aids such as sand paper, tweezers and sharp knives. Complexity emerges from his conceptualisation, from Andrea’s richness of knowledge of the world, his very particular view of it, and from his compulsion to make and discover possibilities through making. His discoveries, when we are in the presence of the models or their images, become knowledge for all of us. He wrote (in his PhD p 38) that he began with ‘idle play’, and this evolved into the work presented here.

Andrea made at a desk. At present, I make in a small shed in ongoing awareness and frequent thought of Andrea. Physically, he was in the shed only a few times; intellectually and emotionally, he is always present for me. I am constantly alert to both the similarities of our fascinations in our modelling and to the considerable differences – particularly in the materials, their treatment, and the characteristics of our respective outcomes. My models, even when delicate, are constructed on solid bases, use metals, timbers and plastics, and, in his phrase, are ‘little engineering works’. Andrea’s models are fragile and sometimes, given their materials, sadly ephemeral. Processes of decay are ever-present: butterfly wings, cats whiskers, sea urchin spines and pods from plants present curatorial terrors.

Andrea was at least comfortable with this threatened decay and usually expressed enthusiasm for it, but I yearn for these models to endure. This site offers both a set of enduring images and a means of sharing the work with an ongoing audience.

Peter Downton
Emeritus Professor of RMIT University
School of Architecture and Design