Designer and Fink founder Robert Foster dies

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Richard Whiteley (left) with Robert Foster at the exhibition opening of Crafting Waste and Aesthetics in the Time of Emergency.

Richard Whiteley (left) with Robert Foster at the exhibition opening of Crafting Waste and Aesthetics in the Time of Emergency. Image: Courtesy of Craft ACT

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The Journey by Frost Design in collaboration with artist Robert Foster of Fink and Co.

The Journey by Frost Design in collaboration with artist Robert Foster of Fink and Co. Image: DMC Photo Graphics, Canberra

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Canberra-based designer Robert Foster, the founder of Fink and Co, passed away this month. 

Foster was known around the world for his iconic curved Fink water jug, which can now be found in establishments such as the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

Foster graduated from the Australian National University (ANU) in 1985 with a Bachelor of Arts (Visual) and a Graduate Diploma of Arts (Visual) in 1986. He maintained a strong relationship with the school and many art students completed internships and received mentoring through his studio.

ANU released a statement expressing sadness at the news of Foster’s death. Vice-chancellor Brian Schmidt said Foster was a great friend to the university.

“Robert’s works are a testament to his creativity. It is fitting that his work can be found in major collections in Australia and overseas, including the National Gallery of Australia, at Parliament House, and of course here at ANU,” Schmidt said.

Head of the ANU School of Art, Denise Ferris, described Foster as “a top bloke.”

“His diverse understanding of process, his knowledge of materials and his constant need to challenge visual language have made him one of the notable contemporary designer makers,” Ferris said.

The National Gallery of Australia (NGA) also released a statement expressing condolences and praising Foster’s work. “A prominent Canberran and globally recognized designer, Robert’s craftsmanship, innovation and sense of aesthetics made him one of Australia’s leading contemporary designer makers,” it read.

The statement continued: “His works in hollowware, jewellery and sculptural lighting are held by all of the major institutions in Australia, including the NGA, which has an extensive collection of his work. He was a great friend of the NGA and our thoughts are with his family and all those who were fortunate to know and love him.”

Friend and collaborator Rohan Nicol, head of gold and silversmithing at ANU, paid tribute to Foster saying: “Robert made a distinctive contribution to his field spanning silversmithing and design. He had the rare ability to reconcile bold creative visions with the cold realities of production. No-one I know has the drive Robert possessed nor the generosity he had to bring so many with him. He was the pivot to so much in our vibrant Canberra design community.”

CEO of Craft ACT, Rachel Coghlan, said Foster was an iconic designer and silversmith and was a mentor, collaborator, leader, supporter, inspiration and teacher, as well as a good friend to many people in Canberra.

“We are devastated that such a great man and talent has been taken from us too early. We gain some comfort from the knowledge that his legacy will endure. Robbie’s contribution is great, both near and far. There is a Robert Foster Fink jug in practically every second house in Canberra, yet his reach is international with sales in New York, London, Germany and beyond. He is revered and admired for his sculptural installations and exhibitions, and his work is held in major Australian and international collections,” Coghlan said.

A Fink pop-up exhibition is currently on display at Craft ACT. 

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