Evelyn Dunston’s Ngahere Karauna (Forest Crown).
This year’s Ranamok was launched at the Canberra Glassworks, and the prize went to New Zealand glassie Evelyn Dunston, whose quite amazing cast work was a deserving winner for technical difficulty alone (it’s pretty damned awesome.) She’s been a serious contender for the last couple of years, so it was not before time that she picked up the guernsey.
The Ranamok is one of those annual events that we always look forward to, and it never fails to entertain. The very nature of the beast delivers a visual cacophony of work that pretty much represents the entire range of studio glass technique, and demonstrates the spread and diversity of Australian and New Zealand glass practice. And due to the (choice by image) selection process the competition is strangely democratic; it’s always a real hit and miss affair, inevitably resulting in a bit of a dog’s brekky (and some real dogs, without fail, manage to make the cut.)
In an interview in Saturday’s Canberra Times the show was touted as ‘the best of the best contemporary glass from Australia and New Zealand’ – which of course is merely that noisome Australian/Canberran tendency to hyperbole, and patently just not true. It’s always quite interesting to see who does get in, but more so in the light of those who didn’t crack it – and frankly it’s always a bit of a mystery. This, by the way, is intended as no reflection whatsoever on either the winner or any number of pieces in the show - but we figure it’s pretty much like all good block-busters; as long as there’s a fist full of pearls, everybody leaves happy.
The Ranamok, of course, has historically been one of those shows that does deliver something for everyone (ie it caters for every possible taste, and then some), so it’s entirely possible that the inclusion of the odd piece of dross is a deliberate ploy on the part of the management…perhaps it’s even a psychological device to encourage more people to have a go next time. But whatever the case may be, we for one certainly don’t want to discourage it – for some years now we’ve been running a book on ‘Dog of the Show’, which amuses the bag out of a few of us – all of whom, of course, shall remain nameless. (And in case you’re wondering, no we haven’t posted a photo of the dog.)
The Gang’s actually been mulling over the possibility of running a Salon des Refusés for some time now – and hopefully we’ll pull our finger out in time to launch it in concert with next year’s kick-off. Haven’t decided on a name; we’ve been tossing around The Sedately’s or The Run a Country Mile , but we’re far from married to anything concrete at this point in time. More of that further down the track…
Oh, but we digress…back to the opening. It got the usual turn out, though mainly a local crowd - and it’s always great to catch up with everyone, again(!) And, like we said, it was an entertaining evening all round. As a gallery venue for the Ranamok, the Glassworks worked surprisingly well – there’d been lots of speculation as to whether there’d be sufficient room to squeeze it in, the gallery space being so curiously spare (in odd ratio to the scale and purport of the building.) Not a problem, as it turned out – and actually it was nicer to have the show strung out across the different areas, as opposed to housed in one uniform, conventional gallery space. But, oh, what was with the lighting in the foyer? We can’t remember it being so harsh at the Glassworks own galah opening. Ghastly. Lit up like a Westfield mall, it was – but perhaps that was the point.
The relentless pressure to volunteer for all and sundry duties pertaining to the general running of the facility appears to have perhaps taken its toll on/run its course with the local glass community and students from the ANU. On this occasion it was the gold-and-silver bods who’d been press-ganged into servicing the bar – and it seems that the hospitality belt has been tightened yet a further notch or five right across the board; not only was it a paid-bar, but the catering was nothing short of an embarrassment. Lordy knows what poor bugger was roped in to do it (because it wasn’t a paid professional job, surely), but the Glassworks picks up our ‘Oh yeah, you’re all class’ award for perhaps the most tragic art event catering we’ve witnessed for many years.
Picture the offering: a plate of sliced (possibly Presto Hungarian) salami on white bread, a plate of (very indifferent) sliced camembert on a cracker, and a plate of chopped-up bits of quiche (bearing all the hallmarks of a supermarket freezer)…all doing a bland and unappetising circuit of the room, over and over again one would imagine. The only thing missing was the chunk of tinned pineapple. Fair dinkum. Not a splash of colour or a lonely twig of garnish to be seen. Catering doesn’t have to be expensive, or over the top – but our advice is that if you can’t do it effectively then don’t do it, period. (And this would have the added advantage of not costing anything at all, which we suspect will appeal to what is shaping up to be the Glasswork’s overriding corporate credo.) We would have taken photos, but even the camera couldn’t be tempted.
And then the bar ran out, a good forty minutes before the reception’s end! The explanation given was that far more people had turned out than expected – yeah, well that always happens – which we could perhaps understand if the Glassworks were putting on free drinks (god forbid!) themselves. But, you know, when you’re charging for the plonk then it’s no big deal to have extra supply on hand (especially when most wine merchants run a sale or return arrangement for precisely this sort of occasion.)
Never mind, we all took ourselves off to that nice Belgium beer pub in Kingston, and had a lovely time happily picking over the evening’s bones of inevitable contention. All in all it was a great night out. Give it an eyeball at