At the age of 91, Helge Esben Larsen died at his home in Seaforth with his family. Helge was appointed as a Senior Lecturer at Sydney College of the Arts in 1977, the college's inaugural year. This began a long and distinguished career as a teacher in this institution, combined with senior management and administration positions.
He was the Head of the Jewellery and Silversmithing Department, and in 1985 was appointed Principal Lecturer in charge of Craft Studies. In 1988 he was appointed Deputy Director (Academic) of Sydney College of the Arts, and in 1990, while Acting Director of the College, he was promoted to Associate Professor of the University of Sydney. From 1991 to 1994 his position was Head of the School of Visual Arts. In this role he was instrumental in integrating a productive relationship between the College and the larger University through times of change and uncertainty.
His intelligence, discernment, good humour, and positive outlook made him a respected and productive academic. He was both a teacher and leader, mentoring students and colleagues alike as he worked to steer the direction of the institution. In the studio his depth of technical skill and knowledge in working with metal meant he was a teacher whose guidance was greatly valued. In this educational context Helge was encouraging and enthusiastic in aiding those around him as they pursued their own creative vision. And thus, the success of a great many can be traced back to his warm and generous artistic influence.
Born in 1929 in Copenhagen, Helge moved to Australia in 1961 to join his life partner and artistic collaborator Darani Lewers. They shared a life-long collaborative dialogue that shaped contemporary jewellery, silversmithing and design over many decades. The fruits of the Larsen & Lewers partnership can be seen in the work held in major museum collections worldwide, and perhaps more importantly, in the objects of ritual and symbolic function or as living jewels worn by those fortunate enough to possess one of these treasures. Helge was an outstanding jeweller and silversmith of international renown and a pioneer and pillar of Australian crafts.
Among the many honorary awards, Helge was the recipient of the Emeritus Award from the Visual Arts/Craft Fund of the Australia Council. In addition, Helge curated a number of national exhibitions (on behalf of the Australia Council) that toured Japan and Europe between 1980 and 1991. Together Larsen and Lewers have received Australia Council Visual Arts/Craft Board grants, including support for major international exhibitions in Europe and the United States. And, in 2007 he received an Honorary Doctorate from the University of Sydney acknowledging his leadership role in the arts and education.
The SCA Jewellery studio is synonymous with Helge Larsen, now located at the Old Teachers College, University of Sydney. Helge established the foundations for many past, present and future students at SCA. The creative community will mourn this great loss. He will be remembered as a creative and kind-hearted soul who freely shared his material magic. Our thoughts are with Darani, Tor, Pia and the extended family in this time of sorrow.
Helge leaves an immense legacy as an artist, jeweller, silversmith, teacher, mentor, and collaborator.
A public event to honour Helge’s legacy was held at SCA Gallery on 28 May 2022. To peruse speeches and images, visit the Helge Larsen Memorial page.