22 Jan 2016
In the second week of January I flew to Adelaide, with a stop-over in Melbourne to visit friends and view the Warhol/Ai Weiwei Exhibition at the NGV. Brilliant! In Melbourne I met up with Dr Bronwyn Hughes and Donna Kennedy of AGDA and GLAAS Inc for lunch and much conversation. Also met with Sharon Harrison and Helen Kelly, both current members of the Ausglass Board, at Federation Square. I really enjoyed seeing the exhibition Virtuoso at Kirra Galleries, which was fortunately still showing at Fed Square.
But my main objective in flying to South Australia was to visit pioneering contemporary stained glass artist Cedar Prest, OAM. Cedar, now 76, is preparing for retirement and consequently is divesting her impressive collection of primarily mouthblown ('antique') glass.
I selected about 100x sheets in all and The Glass Emporium of Adelaide will pack and ship them to Sydney. Much of the mouthblown glass is destined for use in six double lancet windows to the clerestory of the historic St Peter's Anglican Church in East Maitland. Having visited her old studio in the church at Kensington, SA in 2005 (during the Ausglass/GAS Conference) I knew Cedar had a big range of beautiful greys, olives, browns and many unusual colours that the regular suppliers just don't stock.
Now in her 76th year, Cedar is preparing herself for retirement. Her interest has moved away from the business of glass and even the making of labarynths, a consuming passion of more recent years, has now become physically too difficult. I stayed two days with Cedar, who was the perfect host. We swam at Maslin's Beach and walked the labarynth that she built at nearby McLaren Vale with partner Robyn Hunter (who died two years ago) and 30x members of the local community.
During earlier correspondence Cedar had agreed to be interviewed to record her life story as an oral history, so most of our time was spent talking! For me it was a fascinating insight into a strong and energetic woman who has single-mindedly dedicated her life to creative endeavours both here in Australia and Internationally. Having come to know Patrick Reyntiens on a personal level, Cedar Prest was in the right place at the right time to bring about the dessemination of post-war German design sensibility in stained glass first to England, then the United States and Australia.
Arguably Cedar Prest's most important contribution to Australian stained glass has been working with groups of volunteers to bring into being many significant community based projects in South Australia, Western Australia and the Northern Territory. Her fiesty response to this blog, via text from the hospital bed post-op: "Not quite retired! Artists don't".
06 Dec 2015
Opened by Bob Hawke, a former Prime Minister of Australia, at Nanda Hobbs Contemporary 66 King St Sydney, Louis Pratt's new exhibition of sculpture is a cracker. Dealing with issues of greed and corporate arrogance, it was described by the Director of the Gallery as their most important to date and pulls no punches in its political statement about the mining and export of coal.
Pratt uses coal itself as the medium for his sculptures, pulverised and reconstituted with resin, then overlaid with gold leaf to create a visually potent work heavily laden with metaphor and meaning.
Its not only environmental issues discussed however; Pratt lays it on the line where corporate culture is concerned, leaving the viewer in no doubt as to where his politics lie on the Green-Capitalist spectrum. With works such as "Snake Skull", "Business As Usual" and "Retirement" he comments eloquently on the hypocrisy embedded within the business community. And of course the irony of these works being for sale at not-insignificant prices cannot be ignored. A detail I found particularly appealing was the gold lapel pin COAL attached to one of the garments.
Many of these works are actual high-fashion corporate garments recently purchased, soaked in resin and coated in gold leaf. The nails pinning the three elements of "Retirement" to the wall are shiny brass-plated nails; likewise the knife thrust into the leather jacket of "Business as Usual", metaphorically stabbing the wearer in the back. Not everyone in the large audience on opening night would see that those ties hanging on the wall are also nooses.
Not all the works in this show are as successful of course; I found the bucket of gold-coated coal nuggets in "Fools Gold" rather twee with its rotating coloured lights. I got the reference to an imitation coal-fired heater, but it just didn't work for me. However I did particularly enjoy the graphic work, a set of four prints in black and gold leaf. As they are framed under glass, the reflections prevented me from photographing them successfully. So do get along to see the exhibition, which is open until 18th December; this is one not to miss.
21 Nov 2015
Every year many thousands of Sydney-siders, both local and visiting tourists, make the pilgramage from Bondi to Tamarama and back again, taking in the collection of over 100 site-specific contemporary sculptures from Australia and around the world. Sculpture by the Sea now has its own Wikepedia entry; it really has revolutionised the way Sydney embraces art in public spaces. This event, almost single-handedly, has brought Sculpture as an art form back from the margins and into the public arena.
This year, the 19th year of continuous exhibition, there was a very strong element of irony running throughout. The Curatorial Panel went so far as to include a well-known feature of the Bondi landscape as a work by Unknowable from the N.A.S., the Natural Art School, completely in its natural state. Materials: Sydney sandstone. Dimensions: constantly changing. Price: priceless. Artist Statement: "Here sits a large stone. It has been here for eons and it will remain here long after those who view it have come and gone."
Richard Tipping's Speed Trap is also priceless (although you can buy them for $3,300 or less). Reduce Need is so good you almost miss it. And I found a lovely synchronicity between Video Surveillance, beaming images of viewers to the internet, and Tipping's statement that PHOTOGRAPHY IS EASY AND ALL ART IS THE SAME.
Motion was also a common theme throughout the exhibition. Being an outdoor show, this is almost unavoidable, and there are always great kinetic sculptures which play with the wind. But this year motion and interaction seemed to me to be particularly emphasised, as you will find by viewing my short videos of various works, the way they move (or don't) and the way people interact with them:
30 Oct 2015
Took time out of the studio last week to catch the 2015 Small Sculpture Prize exhibition before it closed on Sunday 25th. I try to see it every year because I enjoy the show so much and while it couldn't be called the best ever I certainly wasn't disappointed.
Two sculptures I particularly enjoyed were the abstract aluminium construction by Yioyios above and the very whimsical ceramic totem by Stephen Bird, a regular contributor to the show. Another work I found particularly beautiful was Lines by Titania Henderson
Father's Pencils by Wendy Black struck a particularly strong emotional chord with me. Probably the smallest piece in the whole show iot definitely had the most profound impact. WEndy explains that while her father constructd modest dwellings, the work alludes to skyscrapers, but it was her acknowledgement of communing with him while making the piece that resonated so strongly with me
12 Jul 2015
The Internationally significant Powerhouse Museum or MAAS (Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences) is to be moved to Parramatta, the building demolished and the land sold off to developers for residential accommodation. I consider this nothing short of State-sanctioned vandalism. My opinion is shared by many of my colleagues and friends.
NSW Premier Mike Baird announced the move in February this year as a political stunt (I believe) to garner votes in Western Sydney. Now I'm all in favour of a new Museum in Western Sydney, where over one third of Sydney's population resides. Definitely, let's build more museums and art galleries. But it is patently absurd to demolish a fully functional world class institution for a return of maybe $500M, no matter how dire the need for more residential accommodation in our burgeoning city. A city is soulless without its cultural institutions. And to claim that the demographic centre of Sydney is Parramatta while building more apartments in Ultimo is completely misleading.
Alex Greenwich, Independent member for Sydney is hosting a petition (scroll down to PLANNING) requesting a Parliamentary review of the decision. If we can gather 10,000 signatures, on paper, with a NSW residential address (no email addresses) then the NSW Parliament will be forced to debate the issue. Democracy in action. the tally stands at 3,000 so far; Greenwich is wanting to submit the petition to Parliament this October, so downlaod and sign it now. Take it to your workplace, encourage your family members to sign. Let's keep this dynamic, historic and architecturally significant building.
Interstate and International residents who would like to add their voice in supporting the Museum can sign one of the several online petitions.. these will definitely add weight to the cause. Jamie Parker, Member for Balmain, is hosting an online petition to save the Powerhouse Museum.
JEWELLERY & IDENTITY
For almost twelve months the MAAS has been hosting a spectacular exhibition of jewellery with over 700 exhibits drawn from public and private collections, beautifully curated by Eva Czernis-Ryl, Senior Curator at the Museum. Craft Arts International magazine's current issue #94 carries an impressive review of the show
In the ante-chamber to the main exhibition was a selection of work by students of Jewellery and Design Colleges around NSW. Classes were invited to view the Museum's collections and to make work somehow inspired by or related to a particular piece.
UPDATE NOV 1st 2015:
Over 10,000 signatures were presented to Parliament during question time mid-October, petitioning the State Government to revere=se the decision to move the MAAS to Parramatta. Consequently a full Parliamentary debate will be held, although it is unclear exactly when that will be. for more information check Alex Greenwich's website
13 Jun 2015
Last weekend I attended an opening of a group show by my friend Di Holdsworth at Stella Downer Fine Art in the Dank Street complex in Waterloo. Di has two delightful new assemblage works in the show, along with two shown at the Museum of Sydney exhibition "City of Shadows"
While there I was captivated by an exhibition in the Depot Gallery by Merrick Fry, an artist of whom I had heard but remained unfamiliar with his work. I found a strong empathy with Fry's debris and found object constructions. Although I have such little time spare to indulge my passion for constructionist art these days, it is heart warming to see the genre being embraced with such enthusiasm and indeed gaining ground. Merrick's work is truly a tour-de-force of assemblage/found object/bas-relief/constructionist sculpture.
As you can so easily apprehend from the above images, Fry's body of work is full of dry humour, whimsy and wit whilst remaining rigorously eloquent. His neat execution withstands close scrutiny yet he is by no means precious about what goes with what or for that matter how his materials may have been manipulated. The glass artist purist may well throw up their hands in horror at mixing slumped glass with formed perspex but in context it works, and here context is everything.
The exhibition continues until Saturday June 20th, with the artist attending 11am - 6pm Tuesday to Saturday. The Depot Gallery, 2 Danks Street Waterloo.
Portrait photos by Tony Grech
22 Apr 2015
About 12 months ago I removed all the stained glass windows originally installed into old Chapel of the Anzac Village, Collaroy Plateau, by Philip Handel. My task was to come up with a design scheme which would be suitable for the new Chapel, satisfying the requirements of the architects, Humel Architects of Dee Why, while paying respect to the original artwork by Handel.
I knew at the start it would be a difficult job, and it has proven to be so. But with 6x of the 12 panels installed, people seem happy with the result thus far. In fact the new leadlight material surrounding Handel's pieces gives them a new life.
These six panels are installed as highlights either side of the entry corridor. They are photographed here while standing in the scaffold tower. The following snapshots give you some idea of the installation process.
I am still working on the remaining six panels, to be installed early in May. One of these six is actually an entirely new panel to make up the set and provide a symmetrical format for the back wall of the Chapel. The RSL has commissioned me to produce a window based on the image used in their website Soldier On: an interesting challenge!
08 Mar 2015
The States of Illumination Ausglass Conference was held in Adelaide Feb 12th - 15th, with over 190 delegates. Dr Dongahi Guan, Head of Glass at Beijing University, was one of 5x Chinese delegates to present papers on contemporary glass practice in China. Following the Conference, Donghai travelled first to Canberra to visit the Canberra Glass Works and other locations, then on to Sydney before flying home.
As a Director of the Board of Ausglass I took on the role of organising Donghai's Sydney itinerary, making sure the schedule worked and that he got the most out of his visit. Our first port of call from Sydney Airport was Marc Grunseit's studio in Alexandria, followed by the Glass Artists' Gallery at Glebe. Ellen Harris, an Australian stained glass artist living in Norway, happened to be at the Gallery at the time and so we all enjoyed a delightful lunch at Blackwattle Cafe on Glebe Point. Ellen very generously shouted us all, commenting that "it's so cheap, compared to eating out in Norway!"
After lunch on the Thursday I dropped Donghai off at Sydney College of the Arts where Andrew Lavery, Head of the Glass School, took over. Ben Edols and Kathy Elliott graciously offered to host Donghai for the two nights of his Sydney sojourn, so that presented the opportunity of visiting firstly, Rob Wynne of Denizen Glass, Manly and then Emma Varga's studio in Brookvale on Friday morning.
Friday afternoon I met Dr Guan at Circular Quay and together we walked through the City, over Pyrmont Bridge, to the Power House Museum where Eva Czernis-Ryl, Senior Curator, took us on a tour of the glass collection in the basement.
From Ultimo we walked across town to my studio at Central, taking in the new Frank Ghery building on the way. This building has attracted much praise and criticism in equal measure. Donghai was most intrigued with Hibernian House, asking "are all buildings like this?" He also enjoyed my studio space and was highly complimentary of my work, both glass and on paper.
It was my good fortune to have a private showing of Dr Guan's slide presentation for the Adelaide Conference. Donghai's work is very powerful; deliberately so, as he has based much of his work on research of historical artifacts representing power and authority. We finished off the Sydney leg of his trip with a visit to Sabbia Gallery in Paddington, followed by Martin Browne Contemporary, Australia Galleries, Sarah Cottier, a group of galleries clustered around Royalston Street in Paddington. Sabbia was showing a spectacular exhibition, their annual Masters in Glass.
01 Feb 2015
On Thursday 8th January I loaded up the station wagon with glass, lead and tools from Australian Stained Glass Supplies in Leichhardt and headed North the next day toward Bellingen. I was booked to teach a group of 7x students the basic craft of leadlighting, aiming to instill a passion for stained glass; by the end of 5x days solid work I think I achieved that aim. Everyone enjoyed themselves and seemed to be pleasantly surprised by what they made during the week.
Camp Creative is held in Bellingen every year, with the whole town getting behind it. Around 1,000 students participate in everything from Chinese Calligraphy through Saxaphone and Drumming to making a fountain out of bamboo cut from the surrounding bush. Many students come back year after year, taking on different skills each time or pushing their previous course to new heights. I'll be back there in 2016 for sure.
11 Nov 2014
I missed the annual Sculpture by the Sea exhibition this year, being rather busy finishing and then installing my window for the Bowral Presbyterian Church last Friday. I always enjoy the show: such beautiful location, always interesting and artistically stimulating and invigorating. And its wonderful that this exhibition is so well attended: many thousands of Sydneysiders make the walk from Bondi to Tamarama (or in reverse), not only to look at the view, but to look at Art!
However this is not the only sculpture show in town. Running more or less concurrently, in the beautiful old Waverley/Woollahra Town Hall on Old South Head Road, is the Woollahra Small Sculpture Prize. A strongly contested, selected exhibition, the Small Sculpture Prize is an intimate show, similar in many ways to the Ranamok Glass Prize. While the latter tended to favour plinth-based works, the former is exclusively such, with each work restricted to a maximum size of 80cm x 80cm x 80cm.
The diversity of ideas represented in this show always amazes me. What this means is, being such a small show with only 40x sculptures, it almost doesn't work as a cohesive exhibition. The observer bounces from one extreme example of creative thought to another. There are some links however, some threads to follow and works to compare. In this year's show there were quite a number of figurative pieces, each one of them very powerful and expressive. Henry, for instance, by Miraslav Kratky is almost talking to you. He stands there full of attitude and wisdom, espousing his particular philosophy on Life. Stephen Bird's Ancestral Figure, by contrast is almost impregnable, teasing you with so many unrelated symbols and references (like English Toby Jugs) that the artist seemingly defies you to make sense of the work, delighting in making something both arcane and beautiful.
Several of the works are laden with humour, some of it quite wry. The winning sculpture for instance, Form for Modern Living #2 by Natalie Guy, is a suavely tongue-in-cheek dig at Interior Design, the mores of contemporary fashion, Modern Art and sophisticated consumerism. It somehow encapsulates all of this in a pithy statement of bronze Barbara Hepworth.
And with an hilarious take on Jeff Koons' giant Puppy, Natalie Thomas takes us back to those ultra-kitsch souvenir shops of the 1950's and 60's beachside holidays where you would find all manner of artefacts made of seashells.
A constructivist steel sculpture which caught my eye was Triplex by Morgan Shimeld. I know of Morgan as a stand-out graduate in glass studies from SCA, making really interesting work. Clearly he has pushed on to great heights and moved beyond glass.
But Freja Jobbins' Anthropomorphism #1 surely takes the prize for Absolutely Creepy. Is it just me? I find these conglomerations of baby doll parts very disturbing (while also, admittedly, decidedly funny). There are unexpected echoes here with both Bird's Ancestral Figure but moreso with Thomas' shell-encased Puppy. All three share a strong sense of the absurd.
My personal favourites were Yusuke Takemura's Ho-Zuki and Seraph by the Peculiar Annes. Totally unrelated and appealing to completely different aesthetics, yet both works share a highly developed sense of finesse in both craftsmanship and concept. Take's work celebrates the beauty of materiality and technical virtuosity while the Annes' magical figure possesses such power and spirit that it can transport the observer to another place entirely. And that surely is the achievement of Art.
The Latest Happenings in my World
This blog is where you will find my latest news. It can range from posting images of progress of the current commission to art crit to political or social commentry, both national and international. Anything, basically, that's commanding my attention and I feel is worth sharing with you, my reader. Enjoy. My previous blog can be found at jeffreyhamilton.blogspot.com