“Prosecco is as Aussie as lamb chops because it comes from grapes formerly known as prosecco and is grown here, mostly from the King Valley in Victoria,” says wine writer RICHARD CALVER
CANBERRA always goes a little floral-crazy in September. The daffodils flower, new leaves push their way from seemingly dead twigs, camellias bloom and Floriade is in full swing.
To capture the excitement, the Canberra Glassworks invited Narelle Phillips – a curator and florist – to curate an exhibition pairing artists who work in glass with floral designers.
Both groups of artists respond to the natural environment, although perhaps from a different approach. However, colours, forms, textures – from the minutiae to the broad landscape – are observed by and inspire both groups.
Most of the floral designers had not worked with glass artists before, and one assumes there was collaboration on the forms and colours, and the overall design.
The main work is in the Stack Room, a large chandelier titled “Freja’s Reflection” made by Peter Nilsson, a visiting glass engraver from Sweden. His work was inspired by a Swedish folk story about Freja, the goddess of love, birds and spring and her twin brother Frej who rides across the sky, creating the first spring rain and fertilising the earth.
“Freja’s Reflection” is a column of light, with droplets of water surrounding it, all in clear glass. The long, trumpet flowers are engraved perhaps with frost, or the natural patterns of flora. Beneath the work is a circle of blossoms, representing Larissa Hrstic’s, the floral artist, impression of Freja’s reflection in a pool. The blossoms will gradually change and fade away over the duration of the exhibition and will not be replaced.
This work is an outstanding use of this space, drawing visitors to the centre of the room, as well as being an evocative installation by these two artists.
Ben Edols and Kathy Elliott are paired with Moxom and Whitney and together create two sophisticated arrangements of flora and glass. Red and black, asymmetrical tall necked works are shown with black, cut works. These works date from the late 1990s and early 2000 but remain strong and important works. The surfaces are worked and invite the viewer to explore them intimately.
I found the second arrangement, made in response to the colours and forms of leaves, pods, gourds and grass, dominated by the floral arrangements and almost hiding the glass.
Sui Jackson, intrigued by the overlap of science and nature and how he can use his artistic practice to help viewers engage with issues of conservation and management, worked with Kate Ahmad of Peking Spring Floral Designs. He made several large flower forms “Novelty Oversized Flowers”, which Ahmad set in a garden of flowers, rather than what might have been the more conventional response of filling the forms with flowers. Their whimsical approaches were aptly matched.
This exhibition brought two seemingly disparate groups together to celebrate Floriade and spring in Canberra. Floral designers can replace the blooms during the duration of the exhibition, so they remain perfect.
Floriade always provides opportunities for visual artists to celebrate spring. This exhibition demonstrates a thoughtful way of broadening audiences and drawing out the similarities between the two groups.