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.





Spunk Alert: the photo shoot…

3 10 2007

rene.jpgmas.jpgbrennie.JPGtevita.jpg

Above (l-r) Rene Lawler, Masahiro Asaka, Brenden Scott French & Tevita Havea catch a break following the extended studio modelling session.

It was eye-candy central at the ANU School of Art on Monday when the curator’s pick of the spunkiest blokes in glass sacrificed their long weekend to come together for a sizzling photographic session with super funky photographer Rene Lawler - in preparation for their Hunks of Glass show, which is already shaping up to be a highlight of the Canberra Ausglass conference next January.

We can’t give too much away, but suffice to say that these guys wouldn’t look out of place in a European fashion mag. Pure punk chic – and then some.

Meanwhile, mark the exhibition on your dance card. It’ll be a stand-out, that’s for sure.

Hunks of Glass:

Featuring the work of emerging studio glass artists Tevita Havea, Brenden Scott French and Masahiro Asaka, Hunks of Glass is an exhibition that celebrates the integrity of genuine artistic compulsion in an era of institutionalized conceit and promotional contrivance. [No irony! n(Ed)]

Curated by Megan Bottari, the exhibition runs from 23rd January – 3rd February, with an official opening on Friday  25thth Jan, from 8-9.30pm. Gallery hours: Wed-Sunday, 12 midday-5pm. ANCA Gallery, 1 Rosevear  Place, Dickson, 2602.





Brenden Scott French opening at the Canberra Glassworks…

30 09 2007

one-happy-artist3.jpgthose-really-nice-guys-from1.JPGback-of-predator-wall.jpgengine-2007.jpg

Brenden’s solo exhibition Artefact of the Accident – Predator opened at the Glassworks last night – and it’s fabulous. He’s made the jump to the wall look entirely effortless, and the scale is nothing short of monumental.

And less is most definitely more in the Glasswork’s gallery space. It’s great to see the area uncluttered, and the major wall piece, Engine 2007 (above), is so commanding (1820mm H x 1920mm W x 15mm D) that it fills the room quite stunningly on its own. He’d maintained from the outset that he only wanted the one wall work in that space – and his foresight has been most effectively vindicated.  (The Glassworks had originally intended to hold a two-man show apparently, but the timing didn’t suit the other artist – just as well as it turns out, otherwise the exhibition would have been hideously cramped.) 

The Predators, meanwhile, took possession of the ‘smoke-stack’ space, and we loved the rough de-constructed wooden pallet ‘plinth’ – which rather appropriately was made from Bullseye (the glass, of course, that Brenden uses in his work) pallets.

The show offers up a healthy dose of the artist’s signature socio-political/ environmental commentary, and you’ve got to love his aesthetic. He’s one of those (rare in glass these days) artists who simply won’t compromise his philosophic integrity, regardless of the marketplace and the insidious conservatism of the craft-is-decor brigade.

Check out the show and the punter parade (only the absolute faithful were there - it’s a long weekend so most Canberran’s have naturally gotten the hell out of Dodge) at…

http://www.flickr.com/photos/glasscentralcanberra/sets/72157602210438589/





Tuesday arvo with Brenden…

25 09 2007

Ever since he’s been back in Canberra doing his Stephen Procter residency, Brennie and the Gang have fallen into the habit of meeting after work every Tuesday to shoot the breeze and ponder all things glass and otherwise. This evening we couldn’t – the Gang had to do a quick dash down to the coast and Brenden’s harnessed into that intense final-countdown-mode to his Artefact of the Accident – Predator exhibition opening this coming Saturday night (29th September, 6pm) at the Canberra Glassworks.

We’ve posted a virtual drinkie so that we don’t miss out entirely…





Brenden’s big Procter adventure

5 08 2007

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This year’s recipient of the Stephen Procter Fellowship, Brenden Scott French, put the lucre to fine use with an eight week residency at Northlands Creative Glass (situated in the small fishing village of Lybster on the North East coast of Scotland), followed by a brief recce of Norway and Italy (Rome and Florence in particular).

The sojourn in Scotland afforded him plenty of physical and mental space to further develop his artistic practice, while the remainder of the journey provided an additional buffet of visual stimuli (he checked out all the usual cultural haunts – like the V&A, etcetera – and then some.) We’ve managed to get hold of a slice of his photo-journal of the trip - it’s always interesting to cadge some insight into those odd, inconsequential things that arrest an artist’s eye (and which go on to feed the work, however indirectly.) He had a very eventful journey by all accounts, and even got tumbled and pick-pocketed in Rome! We’re a little bit disappointed he didn’t have his camera at the ready then (…just to add an extra dramatic accent to the trip.)

While in the wilds of Scotland he continued to work on his Predator series, and we’ve included some work-in-progress shots but none of the finished pieces, sorry. This was quite deliberate, we must confess. We thought we’d just give you a little tease before the public unveiling proper…one of the pieces has already been selected into this year’s Ranamok (and consequently will be on show at the Canberra Glassworks later this month), while others will be featured in his upcoming solo exhibition (also at the Canberra Glassworks, opening immediately after the Ranamok.) in late-Sept, early October.

And then, of course, he’ll be making even more new work for his group exhibition (Hunks of Glass, with Tevita Havea and Masahiro Asaka) at ANCA Gallery in Dickson next January (presented in concert with the Ausglass conference.) Now that will be a show not to be missed…..

Brenden’s (partial) visual diary can be seen at

http://www.flickr.com/photos/glasscentralcanberra/sets/72157601225899278/

Anybody interested in Northlands Creative Glass, go to

http://www.northlandsglass.com/noshock.html








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