Jaq Knight’s sent through the address of her ultra spiffy website, which covers all aspects of her practice including the early photomedia stuff…
For Jaq’s website go to www.jacquelineknight.com
Jaq Knight’s sent through the address of her ultra spiffy website, which covers all aspects of her practice including the early photomedia stuff…
For Jaq’s website go to www.jacquelineknight.com
Now here’s a sweet li’l happening – beats the crap out of those boring old christmas baubles…
Speaking of which, here’s a cute li’l archival blast from the past…
…Jane and Tim getting into the hang of things, circa 2000, for the ANU School of Art Glass Workshop’s annual sale.
The Gang thought long and hard about whether or not we’d get the skates back on to belt up to Sydney yet again – this time for the launch of the Procter Fellowship exhibition, In Essence: The Legacy of Stephen Procter, at Sabbia this coming Friday night – but in the end decided ag’in it.
It all looks a tad visually frenetic (less might have been more perhaps) and a couple of the artists selected triggered a veritable mexican wave of incredulous eyebrow raising (their specious claims that Stephen was an influence on their work and/or philosophic practice are tenuous AT BEST.) Anyhoo, enough said about that…[Megsie started to climb on to her soap-box for a rant, but we talked her down. n(Ed)]
On the positive side the exhibition promotes the continuing awareness of the all-important Procter Fellowship, set up after Stephen’s demise to provide an annual travelling/mentoring scholarship, and includes a number of the recipients (…further down the track it’d be great to see this developed into a regular happening, featuring perhaps just the work of Stephen and the ongoing progression of Fellows.)
The added inclusion of work by his old friends and early comrades-in-glass-arms (Ray Flavell and Joel Philip Myers), themselves so instrumental in Stephen’s own development, is a really nice touch – and a practical reminder of the efficasy of encouragement, support and engagement during the critical stages of an emerging artist’s evolving career. And, of course, there’d be no show without Punch – Jane Bruce, who worked with Stephen during most of the period of his tenure as Head of the ANU School of Art Glass Workshop (and was instrumental in assisting Christine Procter in the foundation of the Fellowship) not only has work in the exhibition but is rumoured to be making the pilgrimage DownUnder in person.
So it promises to be a big, glossy affair with plenty of flesh pressing and, one hopes, lots of lovely lucre raised for the Fellowship coffers. For additional info go to the Sabbia website (though at this juncture we notice they’ve not yet uploaded the blurb – keep watch on that space…)
Patricia Roan, Clouds
We decided it was time to take a little peek at Trish Roan’s latest delectables, and were pleased to see she still had her head firmly in the clouds. Thank God.
Looks like she might have a natural immunity to that dreaded commercialitis lurgy that’s been afflicting the ‘art glass’ sector over the last few years.
Patricia Roan, Bottle (detail)
Patricia Roan, Bottle
Patricia Roan, Lightbulb Patricia Roan, Match
Hang in there Trishy, you’re a star. (See earlier post)
Jacq Knight, Zipper, cast glass, 12′ tall (US measurements!!)
We just received a lovely newsy postcard from Jacq Knight who’s recently completed her MFA stint at Alfred and is on the verge of moving to Providence, Rhode Island (tomorrow, in fact) with her fella.
Having just finished teaching a summer glass-blowing class at Alfred, she’s now taking up a gig teaching weekly casting classes in Providence, where she’s already organised a studio space and additional work for other artists – so there’ll be no rest for the wicked by the sound of things.
Her Master’s work looks very cool – she really enjoyed the sculptural focus at Alfred – and one of the larger pieces has been included in a show at the Central Academy of Fine Art in Beiijing. (She’ll be heading across for the September launch, lucky bugger…)
Meanwhile, for a squizz at more goodies, go here.
Luna came through yesterday for an overnight stay on her way to Melbourne to deliver her work to Kirra Gallery for the Capital Glass exhibition (opening next Thursday.) She’s certainly set up for some serious travel nowdays – bike rack ‘n all.
And while she was down here she received confirmation from Craft ACT director Barb McConchie that the touring of Mamana Mamanta – see previous posts and, more to the point, Craft Act’s curatorial coverage – is thunderbirds-are-go. It’s all been given the thumbs up by Visions of Australia and will travel in 2009/2010 (to Adelaide, Bathurst, Orange, Darwin, Brisbane and Wagga Wagga – though not necessarily in that order.)
So a huge congrats to both Luna and Jock – and how fabulous that the show will get so much well deserved exposure. We toasted the deed with Megsie’s Blackberry Nip (which is really, really, really, really good – even if we do say so ourselves.)
Which reminds us – filmmaker Les Herstik has made a great little film about Loons and her practice, and it’s up on YouTube. For a serious treat check out…
And speaking of films…in the mail today we received a wonderful surprise from Mr Marvellous Tom Moore – a preview dvd of his ‘glass-o-rama’ episode for ABC’s Artscape. How excitement! You’re gunna have to wait because it’s not scheduled for airing until sometime in November apparently – but we can assure you that it’s classic Tom, very entertaining, and not to be missed. And it’s peppered with interviews with Nick Mount, Deb (The Leader of the Free Glass World) Jones, and Tom’s very lovely trouble and strife, Rosie. We even caught a glimpse of the Netster. It’s a ripper. We’ll give you a little reminder nudge closer to showtime.
Earlier this year a glass exhibition, featuring the work of Brenden Scott French, Masahiro Asaka and Tevita Havea, was held at the ANCA Gallery in Canberra. The show, which was timed to coincide with the Ausglass Conference 2008, had been conceived some two years before with precisely that forum in mind; it was, after all, the biannual Summit of the Sector – and therefore the appropriate setting for esoteric extrapolation apropos the state of the craft as we know it.
In the main these conferences are a show-and-tell exercise. A mutual gratification fest interlarded with jostling, sometimes insidious, agendas. (Nothing new there; it’s an industry of struggling ambition like any other.) The conference provides an opportunity to network, to catch up with old friends, to scope the field, and to bear witness to the reaffirmation of the status quo. The glass scene is nothing if not conservative. Which is not to say that there aren’t free-wheeling individuals out there in the rank and file, merely that the company line is controlled by an established order that is doggedly committed to self-preservation. Such is life.
Post the exuberant pioneering flurry of the 1970’s, Australian studio glass has been marshaled and professionalized to such a degree that it’s become a creature of regulated market convention. Perhaps this is simply the inevitable endgame of aspirant progression, of advancement up the ‘creative industry food-chain.’ Not that the commercial success of one’s practice isn’t desirable (because patently it most certainly is.) But that success ought to spring from the inherent, even sublime, quality of the work itself rather than from a strategic cultivation of, and servile connivance with, the machinations of established self-reverential interest groups.
The problem is that monopolizing business alliances (including dealers and galleries) have been allowed to dictate the ‘style’ of antipodean product in a way that interferes with natural artistic progression. Delivering a commercial ‘house style’ is not what studio glass is purported to be about. What on earth happened to freedom of expression, to the (now seemingly almost reckless) desire to make art? Because forget the art vs craft debate – it’s a crock. We’ve not freed ourselves from the strictures of the guild at all – we’ve somehow managed to bind ourselves to it again. Ever and ever more tightly.
Perhaps it’s just a Canberra thing. Perhaps it’s aligned to the unholy creep of the consumerist middle class ‘trendy designer’ propaganda of the last decade (which appears to have driven nearly all forms of art into the safe haven of interior décor.) Whatever it is, it’s mighty disappointing.
We now find ourselves having to endure the epoch of institutionalized conceit and promotional contrivance, where imitation in the guise of sincerest flattery is proactively fostered (entirely heedless of William Penn’s somewhat pertinent warning ‘avoid flatterers, for they are thieves in disguise’…) – a circumstance hitherto unthinkable, certainly in Stephen Procter’s day. And, frankly, it’s beyond vexatious to have to witness this debasement of the medium; which for the last 5 years has been dealt not only the disservice of such duplicitous and vapid superficiality, but seems to have also suffered the loss of its humanity, of its warmth and humour, too.
This then formed the genesis of the Hunks of Glass exhibition. The title, cheekily predicated on the concept of the curator’s pick of the spunkiest men in Australian glass, is in part a satirical commentary on celebrity posturing and in part a double entendre alluding to the sexy, designer marketability of the medium. The real joke is in-house, of course; because the three artists represented in the show are the very antithesis of the strutting rock-jock bravura of the promotional banners draping the gallery foyer. All three, instead, are thoughtful, self-effacing and considerate to a fault – with a modesty that is refreshingly sincere in the current era of bombastic humbuggery. Even more importantly, at a time when studio glass is increasingly, disappointingly derivative, these three young men have strikingly idiosyncratic practices that are attracting meritorious attention, both nationally and abroad – practices that reflect the integrity of genuine artistic compulsion (as opposed to the calculated contrivance of marketable ‘celebrity product’, aka ‘corporate trophy art’.) They represent, in effect, a (re)emergence of artistic integrity.
Brenden Scott French, Engine #2, 25th January 2008, fused glass, wheel carved.
The work of Brenden Scott French is as close as Australian glass gets to abstract expressionism (or, more to the point, post-painterly abstraction.) He’s an artist so riven by ethical angst apropos every aspect of his practice (from the amorality of the medium’s heavily booted carbon footprint, to the sophistry of aesthetics, to self-flagellation over critical philosophical and political positioning…) that he’s practically made an art form of obsessive consideration itself. His signature work to date – a deliberative construct exploring the interface of society and environment – has always had an anarchistic bent; a scumbling of surface, a vandalistic gesture scarifying prototypical conventions of beauty, an elusive sense of insinuated subversion. (See, for example, the image accompanying the FORUM page of this blog, though in this particular instance the subversion is hardly elusive!) More recent work, the Predator series, conscientiously explores fundamental notions of resource management (micro/macro, personal/communal) – from necessity to exploitation. The engine motif has since become the vehicular prime mover in his ongoing artistic investigations, so much so that, following an inherent reductionist path, he’s now abstracted this object entirely to the wall.
To those who know French and his work, the jump to the wall was an inevitable and completely natural progression. Many glass artists venture there these days, with wildly varying degrees of success (just sticking a panel of glass on a wall – regardless of its ‘stylistic’ merit – doesn’t cut it, frankly). The reason why it works for French is that (a) it perfectly suits his already well-established working methodology, and (b) it comfortably fits his personal scale. In other words, it’s appropriate for his practice. Klaus Moje has said that when he himself approached the wall it was with utmost caution (and due respect), understanding full well that to trespass into the realm of the painter brought weighty responsibility – it took highly skilled technical and artistic aplomb to carry it off successfully. During the course of the Hunks exhibition at ANCA it was quite fascinating to watch the local painters being drawn to, and held by, French’s work. One very senior and prominent painter observed, with mocking acerbity, “Ah you glassies, you’ve been trying so hard to do the painterly thing for years…” and then, after a pause, added thoughtfully “ but you know, this bloke’s actually got it.”
For the purposes of the Hunks show, French progresses his philosophical musings apropos use/consumption and regeneration by advancing the concept of a ‘perpetual artwork’. Engine # 2, 25th January 2008, is made up of 28 individual panels – each an episodic experience in the piece’s creative journey – all of which are to be sold independently and, post this exhibition, replaced anew. The work itself will continue to retain the same title (Engine #2) and be distinguished only by the dates of its subsequent re-exhibition. This is a really sweet notion, engaging its audience in an interconnected and quite novel way; the smaller panels are democratically affordable, ownership becomes a shared communal experience, patrons are participatory in the continuing and future evolution of the work, and so forth. It’s socialism at its artful best.
From an exhibiting point of view, Masahiro Asaka is the new kid on the block, insofar as he’s just barely emerging onto the gallery scene. Not that he’s a ‘beginner’ by any stretch of the imagination – between early study in Japan and his recent Masters degree at the ANU School of Art, he spent 4 years in Sydney as a studio assistant to Ben Edols and Kathy Elliot (and these days a number of ‘luminaries’ of the Canberra glass scene would be totally bereft should he choose not to finish their work for them…) His entrance onto the glass stage, consequently, is assured and sophisticated, with all the maturity of an old hand (entirely by his own hand.) All that work for other people has served solely as a lengthy study in materiality for Asaka – he certainly hasn’t let it interfere in the slightest with his own creative aesthetic; through which he explores and celebrates the intrinsic properties of glass itself.
Asaka’s work is excitingly distinctive – he captures the essence of glass in a way that very few others have managed. If one was required to come up with a descriptive label for his work, it would be something like ‘natural phenomena: poised’. He has caught and held the very metamorphosis of the material in a way that’s quite breathtaking. And deceptively au naturel – his mastery of cold working is so deft that it’s practically indiscernible to even a trained eye. Most glass artists use cold working as a deliberate and additional layer, or aspect, of a piece. Asaka, however, never struts the virtuosity; though cardinal to a piece, it’s always unobtrusive. It’s the wonder of the material itself that he’s at pains to demonstrate.
Masahiro Asaka, Surge, cast glass.
(above) Masahiro Asaka’s work, and (right) detail of Surge (click to enlarge.)
(foreground) another Masahiro Asaka piece, and (right) view of gallery.
Surge, for example, is an extraordinary piece of work; a splendid suspension of swelling fluidity (and probably as close as a non-surfer will ever get to the sensation of ‘tube riding’!) The ingenuity behind Asaka’s (literally)amazing practice comes courtesy of diligent R&D, of course. What appears to be the sleight of hand of a master magician is the fruit of his intimate understanding of the medium, gleaned from countless hours of trial and investigation. That it seems so artlessly elemental is testament to Asaka’s considerable expertise.
Tevita Havea’s practice is very different again. Tongan born Havea explores and reconciles the polar demands of his Pacific Islander heritage and current Western/urban existence by weaving his native culture into a coeval context. He once described himself as a ‘contemporary primitive’, caught in-between worlds. “There are always contradictions when there are two opposing forces, but instead of one dominating the other, I aim to make pieces that are neither ancient nor contemporary, but operate to explore the tensions of the space between.” More often than not these pieces are underpinned by Islander mythology and legend; an authentic narrative base that delivers him a trove of metaphoric lyricism. This he handles with such delicacy and respect that the work itself becomes a study of timeless dignity.
Tevita Havea, Vaiola, glass and twine.
The three pieces in the Hunks show tell a story about duty and self-sacrifice, and a journey to the underworld…
It is said that when someone close to you is in great need, and there’s nothing in this world that will help, you must journey to the underworld to seek out the help of the Gatekeeper. On the island of Vava’u stands a ring of trees that marks the way – you pull these up and climb down through the roots until you come to the body of water known as Vaiola. Then you have to swim to the bottom because that is where the Gatekeeper lives. And as you swim through the water it washes your ‘sino’ (body) away, until when you get to the bottom all that is left is your soul. That is the only way you can communicate with the Gatekeeper. He will give you the help that you ask for, but there is a price; you lose your body and he keeps your soul.
Tevita Havea, The Gatekeeper, glass, wood and twine.
It’s not imperative to know the stories, but they bring a sense of archaic provenance that adds to the overall eloquence of the work. The sculptured elements, the woven twine, the carved wood, the material inclusions, the subtle tattoo-ing of surfaces…all of this contrives to produce an object that effuses sociological significance. With a visual fluency that empathetically connects it to us all – a universal spirituality to which we, as viewer, instinctively respond. This, surely, what art is all about.
(foreground) Tevita Havea, Sino, glass and twine.
The Hunks of Glass exhibition, comedic hyperbole aside, was a very considered excercise indeed. It was a celebration of three incredibly talented, emerging artists who have been elevated amongst their peers by virtue of the calibre of their craftsmanship, the originality of their artistic vision, and the depth of sincerity of their engagement with their chosen medium.
Particularly fine role models, all.
The exhibition Hunks of Glass was curated by Megan Bottari.
See also numerous previous posts on this blog…
Studio photography: Stuart Hay.
Gallery snaps: Megsie
Somebody just forwarded the Gang the above invitation to a glass exhibition, opening at the Watson Arts Centre this evening.
Dear oh dear, what can we say. There will always be a price to pay when you run ‘off the street’ programs that heartily assure all and sundry that ‘yes! you too can be a glass artist‘ (giving the glib impression that there’s really nothing to it.)
On the face of it we’re already on the slippery slide to a severe devaluation of our arts credentials…
We thought we’d spread a little visual happiness and brighten your day with a symphony of Wendy Meyen’s contemporary chandeliers.
Wendos, of course, has now settled into her studio at ANCA, Dickson, and it’s always lovely to run into her around the traps (in between those hops abroad, that is – she’s not long back from Japan…)
We’ll visit her in her lair sometime soon, and take some workshop snaps…