Clearing the decks…

13 06 2014

Post the BVRG we’re slowly clearing the decks here at the Hideout – and keep coming across all sorts of goodies that have been lost under the perpetual pile of gotta-dooz.

Way back in early 2007 we’d promised to do a post on an exhibition Megsie had curated for Craft ACT entitled A Little Drop of Kindness…which we then neglected to follow up on at the time. So we’ve decided to drop it in, if only to register it formally on this (now predominantly archival) forum.

The revisitation, much to our dismay, reveals a disturbing element of groundhog day. Nothing has changed contextually – not in the sector and certainly not from the socio-political perspective of the world at large. If anything it’s worse. The Libs were still in government back then (Kevin 07 not even a betting likelihood) and the fiscal rack so favoured by the conservatives was stretching national wellbeing beyond endurance. Remember that? The only reason the Libs had a surplus was because they spent no money on essential services, relentlessly wearing down the cogs of social infrastructure until there was a virtual screech of metal on metal. Tragic. That Abbott and Hockey have now come back meaner than ever should be a surprise to no-one.

So. Here’s for a shot of Alice through the looking glass…

From the room brochure…

A Little Drop of Kindness.

Long before the introduction of the sedition laws in this country, the arts and crafts appear to have drifted languidly into the doldrums of arch conservatism. Whether herded by insinuating market forces or simply the reflection of the general malaise inherent in our astonishingly apathetic society, the crafts (and glass in particular) seem to have settled for a safe existence that smacks of little more than interior décor. The ubiquitous arts-craft debate that so dominated the last century has now petered out to a whimper in the rush for commercial status, and the concept of professional practice has been literally duffed and nose-ringed into a cattle run of design and product, where concern is less about the individual expressionism of the artist and more likely to be specifically tuned to the coffers of the art sector shop facades (aka galleries.)

In an era of celebrity mania it’s hardly surprising that the trend has tainted the creative well, and that practitioners now spend an inordinate amount of time plotting self-promotion rather than nurturing that most difficult of mistresses, the muse. Not everybody has sold out, of course. A few years ago, a dowager patroness of the arts froze me with a rheumy, gimlet eye and haughtily proclaimed, in her very best Bracknell-esque manner, ‘there is no place for social or political commentary in the decorative arts.’ Most of the serfs comply. Not all, thank goodness. A small number of artists who work in glass are driven by a stronger imperative – and foray beyond the mere object to investigate and address issues of contemporary social justice in a pervasive political climate where compassion is sadly thin on the ground. The glass exhibition A Little Drop of Kindness has been dovetailed to coincide with the National Multicultural Festival at a time when we can no longer simply take homogeneous co-existence for granted. One glimpse around the global stage should be sufficient to inform us that we can’t keep ignoring the plight of people so pitifully less fortunate than ourselves, neither beyond our shores nor within.

 

Itzell Tazzyman, A Little Drop of Kindness

Itzell Tazzyman, A Little Drop of Kindness

 

The genesis for the exhibition followed a visit to glass artist Itzell Tazzyman’s studio in Mitchell. Tazzyman, whose work has always dealt with the big picture: life and the universe (and the relentless struggle for a sense of redeeming humanity) happened to show me, amongst other things, a small marquette – a beautiful, quite understated, piece that was so full of pathos that it made one weep. It was a classic visual essay in black and white – a withered breast mounting the breach once more to squeeze yet one more drop of human kindness into a well of unquenchable need – a time immemorial piece, and it both set the tone of the exhibition and supplied the title.

Tazzyman is joined by four others. Harriet Schwarzrock’s A Common Thread contemplates the tide of desperate souls that clamour for succour at our shores. Her piece, a virtual rash of blown ventricles, addresses the harshly clinical nature of the process of/for refugee status, the lack of dignity inherent in the scrutinizing procedure, and the mounting bloom and comfort for those lucky few who manage to make the grade.

 

Harriet Swarzrock, A Common Thread

Harriet Swarzrock, A Common Thread


Harriet Schwarzrock

 

Luna Ryan, who for the last several years has worked with indigenous (specifically Tiwi) communities, presents a boxed crowd of Tatwamasi (lit.trans, thou art that), a benevolent creature that first emerged in 1988, in her student work, and has recently made a comeback. Cast from a disparate mix of glass (from lead crystal, to uranium glass, to melted television screens) the group, interspersed with new characters somewhat more hardened in nature, present nonetheless a harmonious community regardless of the mongrel mix in cast(e).

 

Luna Ryan

 

Luna Ryan, Tatwasami

Luna Ryan, Tatwasami

 

Brenden Scott French’s installation of blown glass objects, Catastrophic Engagement, also ponders the group dynamic – in a compositional arrangement (to quote the artist) ‘in which if something was removed it would still balance, yet one in which each piece is totally dependent on the other for inclusion.’ An appropriate analogy for community if ever there was one. This is typical work from Scott French, who invariable makes work with a quizzically conscious, urban-angst edge.

 

Brenden Scott French, Catastrophic Engagement

Brenden Scott French, Catastrophic Engagement

Brenden 3

Brenden

 

Tevita Havea lends a Pacific voice to the show, in a piece called Push and Pull which encompasses the issues of identity, culture and the demands of contemporary (Western) life. Having an identity staked in one community, he suggests, doesn’t preclude meaningful relationship with another. The work, indicative of Havea’s wider art practice, balances the responsibilities of traditional culture with the demands of encroaching, outside influence. Though not the subject of the piece, Havea’s Oceanic sense of dignity and respect thoroughly puts to shame the very notion of interventionist actions as ugly and iniquitous as our own government’s ‘Pacific Solution’. What on earth were the spin doctors thinking? Havea contends ‘Beneath the surface of primal ideology there is wisdom and proof. Through these rituals and initiations you are drawn to something greater than yourself, you find the pieces of who you are and where you fit in.’

 

Tevita Havea, modern primitive

Tevita Havea, Push and Pull: modern primitive

 

Tevita 2

Tevita Havea

 

The world plainly doesn’t need another pretty vase, but it could certainly do with a solid dose of introspection. The arts and crafts are an extraordinarily suitable platform for ethical examination and societal reform. Even Da Vinci was known to daub the odd subversive socio-political thematic in his time.

Vive la différence.

Megan Bottari 2007





Brennie spotto…

4 04 2011

Brenden Scott French opens at Sabbia this week. Looks a real treat…

Hey Bren, we’re very pleased to see you retain that core ‘desire and will, in the moment of uncertainty’. Love the two-edged sword of domestica creeping in!!  

Fabulous work (can’t decide on a fave.)

The Gang will be in the sky heading for Rangoon on Wednesday, but we’ll make sure we have a glass of bubbly in the hand at 6pm EST.





Adders: Friday arvo…

10 03 2009

The Gang had lunch with Blanche, Nadege and the Debster, before Blanchie whizzed back off to Melbourne…

 

                 lunch

 

…and then it was back to the Jam to rendezvous with Brennie, and peel off to check out his studio. He’s in the final throes of  finishing up work for a show at Traver in Tecoma…

 

                           brennie1

 

    predator4  predator2  predator6

     From the Predator series (click to enlarge)

It was particularly lovely to catch up with him, and shoot the breeze – with any luck we can work on bringing him east-side again soon. Janice soon turned up (hobbling, poor lovie – foot injuries seem to be flavour of the month au moment) and we all wandered around to the nearest waterhole…it was a bit like old home week, really.

And then it was back to the Jam, again, for pre-Dante and Janusz slide show and party drinkies (just for something completely different!), followed by the part-ay itself, with fabbo (swamp) band Los Tonos. It wasn’t a huge night – the youngies were chomping at the bit to get to the Garden of Unearthly Delights for the opening of the Fringe Festival, so we old folk ended up having the band to ourselves. No complaints from this quarter; they even chucked in some Tony Joe White. Heaven.

For more snaps, go here.





Hunks of Glass: the exhibition’s curatorial overview…

22 05 2008

 
  
Earlier this year a glass exhibition, featuring the work of Brenden Scott French, Masahiro Asaka and Tevita Havea, was held at the ANCA Gallery in Canberra. The show, which was timed to coincide with the Ausglass Conference 2008, had been conceived some two years before with precisely that forum in mind; it was, after all, the biannual Summit of the Sector – and therefore the appropriate setting for esoteric extrapolation apropos the state of the craft as we know it.  

  

In the main these conferences are a show-and-tell exercise. A mutual gratification fest interlarded with jostling, sometimes insidious, agendas. (Nothing new there; it’s an industry of struggling ambition like any other.) The conference provides an opportunity to network, to catch up with old friends, to scope the field, and to bear witness to the reaffirmation of the status quo. The glass scene is nothing if not conservative. Which is not to say that there aren’t free-wheeling individuals out there in the rank and file, merely that the company line is controlled by an established order that is doggedly committed to self-preservation. Such is life. 

  

Post the exuberant pioneering flurry of the 1970’s, Australian studio glass has been marshaled and professionalized to such a degree that it’s become a creature of regulated market convention. Perhaps this is simply the inevitable endgame of aspirant progression, of advancement up the ‘creative industry food-chain.’ Not that the commercial success of one’s practice isn’t desirable (because patently it most certainly is.) But that success ought to spring from the inherent, even sublime, quality of the work itself rather than from a strategic cultivation of, and servile connivance with, the machinations of established self-reverential interest groups.  

  

The problem is that monopolizing business alliances (including dealers and galleries) have been allowed to dictate the ‘style’ of antipodean product in a way that interferes with natural artistic progression. Delivering a commercial ‘house style’ is not what studio glass is purported to be about. What on earth happened to freedom of expression, to the (now seemingly almost reckless) desire to make art? Because forget the art vs craft debate – it’s a crock. We’ve not freed ourselves from the strictures of the guild at all – we’ve somehow managed to bind ourselves to it again. Ever and ever more tightly.  

  

Perhaps it’s just a Canberra thing. Perhaps it’s aligned to the unholy creep of the consumerist middle class ‘trendy designer’ propaganda of the last decade (which appears to have driven nearly all forms of art into the safe haven of interior décor.) Whatever it is, it’s mighty disappointing.  

  

We now find ourselves having to endure the epoch of institutionalized conceit and promotional contrivance, where imitation in the guise of sincerest flattery is proactively fostered (entirely heedless of William Penn’s somewhat pertinent warning ‘avoid flatterers, for they are thieves in disguise’…) – a circumstance hitherto unthinkable, certainly in Stephen Procter’s day. And, frankly, it’s beyond vexatious to have to witness this debasement of the medium; which for the last 5 years has been dealt not only the disservice of such duplicitous and vapid superficiality, but seems to have also suffered the loss of its humanity, of its warmth and humour, too. 

  

This then formed the genesis of the Hunks of Glass exhibition. The title, cheekily predicated on the concept of the curator’s pick of the spunkiest men in Australian glass, is in part a satirical commentary on celebrity posturing and in part a double entendre alluding to the sexy, designer marketability of the medium. The real joke is in-house, of course; because the three artists represented in the show are the very antithesis of the strutting rock-jock bravura of the promotional banners draping the gallery foyer. All three, instead, are thoughtful, self-effacing and considerate to a fault – with a modesty that is refreshingly sincere in the current era of bombastic humbuggery. Even more importantly, at a time when studio glass is increasingly, disappointingly derivative, these three young men have strikingly idiosyncratic practices that are attracting meritorious attention, both nationally and abroad – practices that reflect the integrity of genuine artistic compulsion (as opposed to the calculated contrivance of marketable ‘celebrity product’, aka ‘corporate trophy art’.) They represent, in effect, a (re)emergence of artistic integrity.  

  

  

       

Brenden Scott French, Engine #2, 25th January 2008, fused glass, wheel carved.  

  

The work of Brenden Scott French is as close as Australian glass gets to abstract expressionism (or, more to the point, post-painterly abstraction.) He’s an artist so riven by ethical angst apropos every aspect of his practice (from the amorality of the medium’s heavily booted carbon footprint, to the sophistry of aesthetics, to self-flagellation over critical philosophical and political positioning…) that he’s practically made an art form of obsessive consideration itself. His signature work to date – a deliberative construct exploring the interface of society and environment – has always had an anarchistic bent; a scumbling of surface, a vandalistic gesture scarifying prototypical conventions of beauty, an elusive sense of insinuated subversion. (See, for example, the image accompanying the FORUM page of this blog, though in this particular instance the subversion is hardly elusive!) More recent work, the Predator series, conscientiously explores fundamental notions of resource management (micro/macro, personal/communal) – from necessity to exploitation. The engine motif has since become the vehicular prime mover in his ongoing artistic investigations, so much so that, following an inherent reductionist path, he’s now abstracted this object entirely to the wall. 

  

To those who know French and his work, the jump to the wall was an inevitable and completely natural progression. Many glass artists venture there these days, with wildly varying degrees of success (just sticking a panel of glass on a wall  – regardless of its ‘stylistic’ merit – doesn’t cut it, frankly). The reason why it works for French is that (a) it perfectly suits his already well-established working methodology, and (b) it comfortably fits his personal scale. In other words, it’s appropriate for his practice. Klaus Moje has said that when he himself approached the wall it was with utmost caution (and due respect), understanding full well that to trespass into the realm of the painter brought weighty responsibility – it took highly skilled technical and artistic aplomb to carry it off successfully. During the course of the Hunks exhibition at ANCA it was quite fascinating to watch the local painters being drawn to, and held by, French’s work. One very senior and prominent painter observed, with mocking acerbity,  “Ah you glassies, you’ve been trying so hard to do the painterly thing for years…” and then, after a pause, added thoughtfully “ but you know, this bloke’s actually got it.” 

  

For the purposes of the Hunks show, French progresses his philosophical musings apropos use/consumption and regeneration by advancing the concept of a ‘perpetual artwork’. Engine # 2, 25th January 2008, is made up of 28 individual panels  – each an episodic experience in the piece’s creative journey – all of which are to be sold independently and, post this exhibition, replaced anew. The work itself will continue to retain the same title (Engine #2) and be distinguished only by the dates of its subsequent re-exhibition. This is a really sweet notion, engaging its audience in an interconnected and quite novel way; the smaller panels are democratically affordable, ownership becomes a shared communal experience, patrons are participatory in the continuing and future evolution of the work, and so forth. It’s socialism at its artful best. 

  

        

  

  

From an exhibiting point of view, Masahiro Asaka is the new kid on the block, insofar as he’s just barely emerging onto the gallery scene. Not that he’s a ‘beginner’ by any stretch of the imagination – between early study in Japan and his recent Masters degree at the ANU School of Art, he spent 4 years in Sydney as a studio assistant to Ben Edols and Kathy Elliot (and these days a number of ‘luminaries’ of the Canberra glass scene would be totally bereft should he choose not to finish their work for them…) His entrance onto the glass stage, consequently, is assured and sophisticated, with all the maturity of an old hand (entirely by his own hand.) All that work for other people has served solely as a lengthy study in materiality for Asaka – he certainly hasn’t let it interfere in the slightest with his own creative aesthetic; through which he explores and celebrates the intrinsic properties of glass itself.  

  

Asaka’s work is excitingly distinctive – he captures the essence of glass in a way that very few others have managed. If one was required to come up with a descriptive label for his work, it would be something like ‘natural phenomena: poised’. He has caught and held the very metamorphosis of the material in a way that’s quite breathtaking. And deceptively au naturel – his mastery of cold working is so deft that it’s practically indiscernible to even a trained eye. Most glass artists use cold working as a deliberate and additional layer, or aspect, of a piece. Asaka, however, never struts the virtuosity; though cardinal to a piece, it’s always unobtrusive. It’s the wonder of the material itself that he’s at pains to demonstrate. 

  

        

 Masahiro Asaka, Surge, cast glass. 

  

                 

 (above) Masahiro Asaka’s work, and (right) detail of Surge (click to enlarge.) 

  

           

(foreground) another Masahiro Asaka piece, and (right) view of gallery.  

  

Surge, for example, is an extraordinary piece of work; a splendid suspension of swelling fluidity (and probably as close as a non-surfer will ever get to the sensation of ‘tube riding’!) The ingenuity behind Asaka’s (literally)amazing practice comes courtesy of diligent R&D, of course. What appears to be the sleight of hand of a master magician is the fruit of his intimate understanding of the medium, gleaned from countless hours of trial and investigation. That it seems so artlessly elemental is testament to Asaka’s considerable expertise. 

  

  

Tevita Havea’s practice is very different again. Tongan born Havea explores and reconciles the polar demands of his Pacific Islander heritage and current Western/urban existence by weaving his native culture into a coeval context. He once described himself as a ‘contemporary primitive’, caught in-between worlds. “There are always contradictions when there are two opposing forces, but instead of one dominating the other, I aim to make pieces that are neither ancient nor contemporary, but operate to explore the tensions of the space between.” More often than not these pieces are underpinned by Islander mythology and legend; an authentic narrative base that delivers him a trove of metaphoric lyricism. This he handles with such delicacy and respect that the work itself becomes a study of timeless dignity. 

  

  

 

Tevita Havea, Vaiola, glass and twine. 

  

  

The three pieces in the Hunks show tell a story about duty and self-sacrifice, and a journey to the underworld… 

  

It is said that when someone close to you is in great need, and there’s nothing in this world that will help, you must journey to the underworld to seek out the help of the Gatekeeper. On the island of Vava’u stands a ring of trees that marks the way – you pull these up and climb down through the roots until you come to the body of water known as Vaiola. Then you have to swim to the bottom because that is where the Gatekeeper lives. And as you swim through the water it washes your ‘sino’ (body) away, until when you get to the bottom all that is left is your soul. That is the only way you can communicate with the Gatekeeper. He will give you the help that you ask for, but there is a price; you lose your body and he keeps your soul. 

  

  

  

  

        

Tevita Havea, The Gatekeeper, glass, wood and twine. 

  

  

It’s not imperative to know the stories, but they bring a sense of archaic provenance that adds to the overall eloquence of the work. The sculptured elements, the woven twine, the carved wood, the material inclusions, the subtle tattoo-ing of surfaces…all of this contrives to produce an object that effuses sociological significance. With a visual fluency that empathetically connects it to us all – a universal spirituality to which we, as viewer, instinctively respond. This, surely, what art is all about.  

  

  

  

                                               

(foreground) Tevita Havea, Sino, glass and twine. 

  

  

The Hunks of Glass exhibition, comedic hyperbole aside, was a very considered excercise indeed. It was a celebration of three incredibly talented, emerging artists who have been elevated amongst their peers by virtue of the calibre of their craftsmanship, the originality of their artistic vision, and the depth of sincerity of their engagement with their chosen medium.  

  

Particularly fine role models, all.   

  

  

The exhibition  Hunks of Glass was curated by Megan Bottari. 

  

  

Related articles: 

http://www.craftaustralia.com.au/ewp/20060226.php

 

http://glasscentralcanberra.wordpress.com/2007/12/21/the-art-of-tevita-havea/ 

 See also numerous previous posts on this blog…

 

  

Studio photography: Stuart Hay. 

Gallery snaps: Megsie





Get ya gear orf…

1 02 2008

get-ya-gear-orf.jpg

photoshoot-brenden-3.jpgphotoshoot-brenden-2.jpgphotoshoot-brenden-1.jpgBrenden Scott French

photoshoot-masa-3.jpgphotoshoot-masa-1.jpgphotoshoot-masa-2.jpgMasahiro Asaka

photoshoot-tevita-1.jpgphotoshoot-tevita-3.jpgphotoshoot-tevita-2.jpgTevita Havea

The Gang’s heading for the ‘Berra for a couple of days gallery sitting followed by the de-install of Hunks so, not being able to blog for a few days, we thought it best to leave you with a something to go on with…

The photo-shoot for the Hunks of Glass exhibition (held way back, at the the beginning of October) was loads of fun – well for the Gang, at least!! We couldn’t bring it to you before now… we didn’t want to spoil the surprise, obviously.

The boys – Brenden Scott French, Masahiro Asaka and Tevita Havea – all of whom are inordinately modest blokes (and light-years away from the self-promoting/celebrity/vanity game), were great sports on the day and morphed into the perfect trio of spunky-funk-stars.

Special thanks go to the man behind the camera, Rene Lawler (who’s also joined our list of favourite hunks!)

Enjoy.

(We’ll be back with the rest of the Ausglass social rounds  – still got Saturday to go!! – and a squizz at some more glass just as soon as we possibly can…ciao for now.)





Canberra glass just got a whole lot sexier: Hunks of Glass – the exhibition, Mark I…

25 01 2008

brenden-scott-french.jpg

BRENDEN SCOTT FRENCH

masahiro-asaka.jpg

MASAHIRO ASAKA

tevita-havea.jpg

TEVITA HAVEA

Yeah, baby! That’s what we’re talkin’ about! Curator’s pick of the spunkiest blokes in Australian glass…

Hunks of Glass opens at ANCA Gallery, Dickson, tonight, and we promise that we’ll be bringing you the good oil from the opening (and, indeed, all manner of stuff from the Ausglass Conference 2008 social program in general) but not until we have time to process all the snaps. Stay tuned over the next week for all the fun and frivolity.

Meanwhile we’re still heads down and bums up, in serious org-mode for tonight’s extravaganza….

See you there…





Hunks of Glass: the invitation…

26 11 2007

hunks-invite.jpg

Ann McMahon has been hard at it (as ever) and has just sent over the invitation for the Hunks of Glass exhibition, which will be showing at ANCA during the Ausglass Conference next January.

And you’re in for a real treat – if it wasn’t enough to have the spunkiest men in glass strutting their stuff, we’ve also got the original spunk himself launching it!

But wait, there’s more!!! The opening will segue into serious party mode, courtesy of the spunkiest blokes on the Canberra music scene - the O’Hooligans.

Get out!! Too bloody good!!

Don’t forget to mark it on your dance cards.








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