Beat Urfer

Beat Urfer first came to Cairns in 1974 on a working holiday from his native Switzerland and was stranded here because of the wet. It was then that he and his wife Monique fell in love with the area and they returned in 1981 to live. They now are established on the Tablelands.

Beat’s particular art is “email cloisonné” from French meaning “enamel divided into compartments”. Wire (silver) outline a design; these wires are soldered to a metal base, thus forming the cells (cloisons) which are filled with wet enamels applied with a brush. The work is then fired at temperature from 800 from 1000o. The whole process has to be repeated several times on one piece, and when silver is used for the metal outline, firing becomes a greater risk, for silver has a low melting point. Beat Urfer breaking with its traditional purely ornamental application, use it as a painting medium. It is a lot more complicated than painting. In a painting you can paint over something you don’t like; you have many brush strokes. In enamel cloisonné the painting has to be finished on paper or in Beat’s head before he starts. Silver wire is one stroke, you just have to let it go and it comes out right. Well… that is after years of experience.

It was unconceivable to Beat's parents that he should become an artist. In a true Swiss tradition, Beat had to learn something “proper” first and his training is organic chemistry was to become crucial in the excellence of this particular art form. There is no-one else in Australia (as far as Beat knows) who uses this technique, only Professor Walter Lochmuller in West Germany. Beat regularly exhibits in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France