Review / Kelly sculpts spherical works of strength

craft / “Macrocosmia”, Elizabeth Kelly at Craft ACT Craft until August 25. Reviewed by MEREDITH HINCHLIFFE

THREE large, free-standing, glass sculptural forms greet me as I walk into Craft ACT gallery. They are spherical with protruding points, evoking exotic sea creatures or plant forms. 

“Dusky Sphere” by Elizabeth Kell, 2018, Photo by Steve Keough

An artist working in glass, Elizabeth Kelly had been working for nearly a decade to produce a large-scale representation of microcosmic scale of organic architecture. She experimented endlessly and eventually realised that she was dealing with spherical geometry, and that she needed the assistance of an astrophysicist or mathematician. Dr Ralph Sutherland from the ANU visited her studio and saw the extensive research – in paper and glass – she had done and could see the difficulties she had set herself and agreed to help.

His research – which was also extensive, using three dimensional mathematics and calculations, using pen and paper and eventually open-source software – led to the construction of four different shapes, 162 of which combine to make a sphere. The project was extremely complex, requiring not simply a surface, and the thickness of the glass on the special side shapes is an integral part of the mathematics of the design.

Once the glass forms had been made – and this took some time – they had to be assembled and both Dr Sutherland and his son Rodger assisted Kelly in working out how to do this. While this is easily said, this took a further 18 months or so including complex equipment which they had to make.

Kelly has used different tones of colour in the three spheres, yellows and greens, violet and blues, and reds and purples.

The refraction and reflection of the glass pyramidal forms is constantly changing, with the depth of glass and depending where you are standing and looking. The forms are saturated with colour.

These works have strength and presence, and are very obviously the work of dedication and commitment by the artist and her collaborators.

Elizabeth Kelly will speak about her work during National Science Week, in Craft ACT Gallery at 12.30pm, Friday, August 17.

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