Review / ‘elaborate and skilfully made’ glass art

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FOR her last exhibition at Craft ACT, curator Mel George invited a group of 23 glass artists working in Australia to respond to a historical glass object from the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. 

Tom Rowney, “Vaso Ciliegio” (Foglie) (glass)
She spent some time pairing the artist with a work chosen by her and we are shown a small image of the original work.

The Museum’s Glass Collection showcases more than 35 centuries of glass artistry.

Audiences can see a glass portrait of an Egyptian pharaoh, examples of the finest Renaissance Venetian glass, right up to works made by today’s contemporary artists in this extensive collection.

I was struck by the familiarity of several works, and realised once again, that everything old is new again.

Rather unusually, two flame-working artists are included in the exhibition. Mark Eliott-McFoggarty (who has taken on a new persona for this show) is showing a tableau “Apparition for the Extraction of Cloud Essence”. On bended knee, a young male lover is trying to draw the attention of his love. There is a fairy tale to go with this work, which is elaborate and skilfully made.

Peter Minson is showing a version of a Swiss wine siphon from the first half of the 19th century, titled “Wine Thief”, which is perhaps the most literal exchange.

The work of the current exhibitors honours the work of the earlier glass artists, and several artists have used the opportunity to extend their techniques. Tom Rowney who uses traditional Venetian glass working techniques, is reinterpreting a vessel by Italian master Giampaolo Seguso. His pair of vessels incorporates cane work and aventurine gold and green glasses. The cane work evokes delicate lace, or fine netting, looping around and weaving in and out of itself over the surface of the vessels. These works are one of the highlights of the show.

A ribbed pocket flask is the work Jenni Kemarre Martiniello responded to. She is exhibiting a flask titled “Allegory” in blown and cold worked glass with cane and murine. This is a beautiful work, referencing Aboriginal history and the long-neck turtle and with a nod to colonial invasion.

An Egyptian tile, which could have been made yesterday, was the work chosen for Judi Elliott. Her work: “Still Here! From 699 BC to 20th Century” is a large tile of colours exclaiming that artists are still alive and working.

“History Repeated” illustrates an unusual way for artists to approach their work for an exhibition, and I have no doubt it will lead to other shows along similar lines.

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