Review / Collaboration pushes artists in new directions

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“Precious Waste” by Laurel Kohut and Kate Nixon.

AUSGLASS (the national organisation for glass artists in Australia) and the New Zealand Society of Artists in Glass held a Conference – COLAB – in Whanganui, New Zeland, from February 15 to 17. “Interchange” is a satellite event being held in Australia. The collaborative theme of the conference has informed the theme of the exhibition. Artists from each organisation have been matched with a counterpart to create cross-cultural collaborative partnerships.

Jeff Hamilton – an artist who has worked for many years in stained glass, and Jonathan Doe – a street artist, have collaborated on a large work prominently displayed at the entrance of the exhibition. They collaborated on the design and the making of the work “Prayer to the iGod”, which is a complex, successful work that cocks a snoot at the current obsession for iPods and their impact on our lives. Shaped in the form of a church window, with coloured glass mosaic in the background, a man is crouched in a position of prayer on a pile of US dollar notes. Hamilton brings his extensive knowledge and interest in exploring other techniques to create the dollar bills and the pixilated background.

Laurel Kohut and Kate Nixon worked together on a series of rubbish bins, complete with ribs, dents and misshapen handles on the lids. These are a receptacle for the possessions people collect and the painful process of disposing of them. “Precious Waste” reminds the audience of wasteful lives, the amount of excess people live. They bring an eerie elegance to this most practical object.

Evelyn Dunstan from New Zealand, is well known for her lost wax kiln cast glass objects for which she has received several awards in both New Zealand and Australia. Catherine Newton is a mother – a status she shares with Dunstan – and has been exploring how sculptural objects in glass can embody and express maternal love and intimacy. She has been doing this specifically through the act of hugging. To convey a hug in hot, blown glass seems an impossibility to me. Together, Newton and Dunstan have succeeded through a large, amorphous form captured in a pair of delicate female hands entwined with leaves and tendrils. This work is emotive and playfully titled “Snugglepod”.

Collaboration brings a great deal to the work of creating visual art, generally a solitary occupation. The work in this exhibition shows again how collaborations push artists in new ways. It gives much more than the sum of the parts.

There are two other exhibitions at M16, “Wash/Backwash”, ceramics by Jacqui Malins and “Softly” by Ruby Berry.

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