In 1991, inspired by the authoritative originality of the netsuke of Rudi Mineur, I wrote ‘I believe that netsuke as an artform has only just been discovered and that in the work of the contemporary carvers, particularly the non-Japanese carvers…we shall see netsuke…be recognized as a highly significant form of sculptural art. ‘ (INS Journal Fall 1991) Since that time, there have been many developments in the netsuke world, and a current revival of interest is accompanied by astonishing international prices. I continue to hold the view that the work of non-Japanese artists significantly contributes to the reinvigoration of the artform, and that the unique work of Rudi Mineur is the platform for its transformation from a quirky manifestation of Japanese culture to a serious form of sculpture.
Rudi Mineur is an artist of great intellectual and creative stature. His netsuke are original, innovative, even daring. His use of materials is bold and inspiring. As Japanese netsuke give physical form to the soul of Japanese culture, so do Rudi’s netsuke express the essence of Australia, albeit with an intellectual and philosophical depth addressing the enigmas of the universal human condition and the natural world.
Born in Holland in 1945, the circumstances of Rudi’s post-war childhood had a strong impact on his attitudes, philosophy of life and ultimately on his art. His interests centred on fossicking in the bush for ancient treasures, hunting and trapping, and observing wild life. Migration to Tasmania in the 60’s provided limitless opportunities to pursue and develop these interests. Later, employment as a museum technician at the National Museum of Victoria developed a serious interest in aboriginal culture, pursued privately after he commenced a freelance career.
Functionality is one of the prime reasons why Rudi adopted netsuke as his means of artistic expression. The fusion of art and utility is at the core of his somewhat insistent philosophy of life unadorned; simple, uncluttered, candid – real. The discipline of form dictated by function is essential to his creativity. His perspective is that of a natural historian; minutiae of the natural world absorb him; basic elements of life, death, and reproduction are paramount; man is not separated from the exigencies of the natural world.
Rudi is at one with a culture ‘where natural, earthy beauty can be at once respected and complemented’ and this is how he sees Japanese art. This attitude captures the dynamics of Rudi’s work, a harmonious interaction of nature and man where the integral character of the material is preserved, yet at the same time enhanced by artistic intervention. Inspiration for his work stems initially from the innate characteristics of the material: natural shape, colour, texture, etc. In his studio, in a large bark dish, is a mass of ‘lumpeys’, Rudi’s term for the fascinating variety of odd-shaped pieces of wood, stone, shell, bone and so on collected over a lifetime of bush and desert expeditions. These are the raw materials for an artist of startling originality, inspiring skill and intellectual depth.