ARTLOOK #10 | April 2005
Glass work by Jonathan Baskett, Mel Douglas, Deb Jones, Elizabeth Kelly and Maureen Williams
Gallery One Craft ACT
8 April–22 May
Geometry Rhythm and Light: glass and the everyday
The curator of this exhibition David Sequeira uses everyday forms such as bowls, bottles and plates, and has focused on particular visual principles and properties of glass, which he originally curated for Sydney's Object, Australian Centre for Craft and Design. The title of the exhibition, Geometry Rhythm and Light says it all. South Australian artist Deb Jones tells me she enjoyed working with Sequeira on the show. 'The time has come when it is not good enough to put glasswork together just because it's glass. David has set the bar,' she says.
Jones is a conceptual artist with a strongly developed minimal aesthetic and Sequeira's vision clarifies her work's meaning. Jones's work in the exhibition is uncoloured, translucent, and features variation of internal volumes. The metaphor of the vessel can be easily read as an investigation of individual difference where a balance of abilities and potentials gives each person a unique position in the spectrum of human possibility. Jones repeats bottle, glass and bowl forms and these are arranged in orderly sequences of straight lines. This spatial narrative is an arrangement that is in harmony with the long rectangular Gallery 1 space at Craft ACT. The work seems more comfortable than it was in the round Object space in Sydney, where a certain tension existed.
Elizabeth Kelly's work is presented differently in the Craft ACT exhibition than at Object, with the installation being shown at thigh, rather than chest, height. This perspective visually separates the pieces, which have been made in three unusual analogous colours, and arranged in an irregular grid to accommodate their varied sizes. Side-lighting from the adjacent window emphasizes the sensual rounding and luscious glistening surfaces of the four-sided forms. Blown and hot worked, the pieces bear a resemblance to work Kelly made during a demonstration last year at the opening of her Studio Tangerine at the Australian National Capital Artists' (ANCA) Mitchell Studios.
Jonathan Basket, another ANCA tenant, has concentrated his efforts to an exploration of colour. His installation of beakers demonstrates a mastery of colour-mixing achieved through rigorous technical experimentation, and it also expresses delight in his discoveries. The pieces, arrayed on sets of shelves, are organized in a way that is both systematic and playful. Basket invites a visual journey through a landscape of related and complimentary colours. I was impressed when Baskett showed Kugler Kaleidoscope , in Centrifuge at Craft ACT in 2002, but the version in Geometry Rhythm and Light is a far more extensive work.
While Baskett's pieces are translucent, Maureen Williams works with the intense colours of opaque glass. The concentric circle design of the platters provides a strong cohesive format for her colour studies. The elegant installation at eye level, in a simple evenly spaced row, maximizes the impact of the vivid colour combinations. Although the rhythm is interrupted by architectural elements, the work can still be enjoyed as a collection, in groups, or as discrete pieces.
A circular wall installation by Canberra artist, Mel Douglas makes a statement about tonal value and variation, drawing the viewer to the far end of the gallery. The group of small bowls presented on individual shelves must be appreciated from a distance as well as close up. Douglas is known for her engraved surfaces and in this work evidence of vertical surface grinding can be seen on very close inspection. The detail adds subtly to the frosty texture of the monochromatic works, which range from dark through greenish tones to the whitish translucency of uncoloured glass.
Four large bowls on plinths nearby are more characteristic of Douglas' work and fans will not be disappointed. The fine rhythmic lines are engraved with her usual attention to order, obsessive detail and respect for marks that can only be made by hand. The repetition of the simple geometry of very ordinary forms serves to impress upon the viewer an appreciation of the individual artist's mastery of the medium.
Only practice develops skill in making objects by hand and a level of expertise is implicit in the production of sets. All of the works chosen for the exhibition illustrate fascinating aspects of glass as a material, but Geometry Rhythm and Light is also about the power of fundamental visual principles. They are a vocabulary in the language of glass.
Anne McMahon is a freelance artist and writer based in Canberra