For those of you who can’t make it to Wagga Wagga to catch the National Art Glass Gallery’s current offering, Michael Scaronne has sent the next best thing – a slide show of the exhibition, This Australian Life, with the accompanying curatorial essay by guest curator Suzanne Brett (former curator of Kirra Galleries, Fed Square.)
Robert Murray, Coolamons, 2008, kiln formed, painted, perspex, dimensions variable. Purchase funded by Wagga Wagga City Council, National Art Glass Collection 2008
W a g g a W a g g a A r t G a l l e r y P r e s e n t s
This Australian Life:
Works from the National Art Glass Collection – Curated by Suzanne Brett
Driving to Wagga Wagga last December the road was strewn with
detritus from the recent floods that stranded cars on the Hume
Highway and washed away the bridge at Wangaratta. Trees were
scarred and blackened by fires weeks and years earlier and the
undulating landscape continually changed with darkened skies and
ominous clouds on the horizon. It left an impression that influenced
my thoughts when viewing the vast collection at The National Art
Amongst this extraordinary collection of important contemporary and
historical pieces I was drawn to sculptures with a common
narrative. Beautifully crafted objects both powerful and ordinary that play
a part in daily life, works that express a love for the landscape, portray
hardships endured and others which define Australian society and
culture. These came together to form the exhibition “This Australian Life”.
The exhibition includes pieces by many luminaries who were
pioneers in the Australian art glass movement in the 70s and 80s,
and of those who came from the United Kingdom, the United States
and Europe to teach at universities and studios around Australia.
Students were encouraged to defy convention, embrace technology and
pursue their own individual artistic direction. Armed with a broad
knowledge and practical skills they honed their practice and went on to
become some of the most innovative glass artists in the world today.
Having travelled to remote areas in Central Australia and the Northern
Territory I was mesmerised by artworks celebrating Indigenous culture
by artists Robert Murray with his powerful installation “Coolamons”,
Jenni Kemarre Martiniello with her delicate blown cane-worked piece
“Medium Green Rushes Eel Trap # 4 “, and Dorothy Napangardi’s “Salt
on Mina Mina” representing the long journeys of women ancestors
from Mina Mina, a sacred site in a remote area of the Northern Territory
west of Yuendumu.
Wendy Teakel’s sculpture “Just Walking” using kiln-formed float glass
and grasses, Jessica Loughlan’s minimalist piece “Close Distance 42” and
Stephen Procter’s “World Turning” in fused and carved glass evoke a sense of
stillness and of moving through the land with no beginning and no end.
Social injustice that came with colonialism is also expressed in
several works. “Please don’t Sit” by Gerry King fabricated in kiln-formed
glass in part references a demarcation between western society and those
various colonised cultures for whom the chair is alien and to be
associated with the dominant power and status. His sculpture
“Toledo Blade” cast in the shape of an axe with desolate mountains depicted
within is of a series initially inspired by recognition of the role the
axe-blade played in both building and destroying the colonised landscapes of
There are sculptures I added because they fit within the landscape
of the exhibition although the source of inspiration was unclear. They
include Nick Wirdnam’s “Little Straw School”, a quiet contemplative piece
in blown glass and Vicki Torr’s untitled double cone bowl which evokes
joyous memories of huge raindrops exploding on the surface of water during a
tropical storm and jumping in puddles in the drenching rain.
The imagery contained in this collection of over thirty-five art glass
sculptures by twenty-seven artists express a diversity of ideas shaped by
environment, cultural beliefs and circumstance. They provide a snapshot
of Australian life and the collective experiences that form our identity and
continue to inspire and connect the generations.
Makes for a very pleasant stroll through the Australian glass-historic psyche and landscape – it’s a pretty thorough sampler of the oevre (and, indeed, the National Art Glass Collection itself.)
Exhibition on until 21st July. Always better to see it in the flesh if you can. More info here.
Paul Sanders and James Thompson, Rust, blown, raku glass vessel, hand forged glass spikes, bone and metal, size variable. Purchase funded by Wagga Wagga City Council, National Art Glass Collection 1998