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Glass X Design exhibition review: Canberra Glassworks

Craft

Glass X Design. Canberra Glassworks. On until 25 January.

The Glass X Design exhibition has slipped across from last year which means that there is still time to see it before it closes at the end of January. The Canberra Glassworks has been instrumental in bringing together artists from different fields to join together in creative projects. This has resulted in several exhibitions of note especially Glint: Glass and Print in July last year. Such exhibitions have the effect of extending the influence of the Glassworks beyond the realm of studio glass into fields of design, architecture, graphic design and lighting.

This latest exhibition brings together eight pairings of artists and designers in collaborative projects that range from lighting and light sculpture to domestic ware and jewellery. The artists and designers are George Agius and Jason Bird; Ruth Allen and Dan Lorrimer/ Mitchell Brooks; Kristel Britcher and Gilbert Riedelbauch; Lisa Cahill and Chris Hardy; Cobi Cockburn and Robert Foster; Nadege Desgenetez and Tom Skeehan; Kumiko Nakajima and John Quan; and Blanche Tilden and Erin Hinton. A lot of the collaboration has been made possible by modern communication as the artists do not necessarily inhabit the same cities and several of the artists have not met. With this in mind, it has turned into a very fruitful exchange. Perhaps Blanche Tilden summed it up nicely when she wrote that her collaboration with Erin Hinton opened up a space to create something that previously did not exist – something in fact outside the practice of both the artists involved. Indeed the Tilden/Hinton collaboration was one of the exhibition's most successful. Tilden's jewellery has always been predicated on technology and industrial-looking processes. Its appeal lies in its precision and the austere elegance to be found in the combination of metal and glass surfaces and textures brought into focus by light. Hinton has an architectural and design background. Her concept for Tilden's brooches is based on geometric forms that combine oxidised silver, metal and glass. The same forms of the brooches can be seen transformed by 3D printing into feasible architectural buildings.  The scale is the one element that decides the function and blurs the boundaries between forms. It is a very thought provoking concept that makes us question the ambiguity of the real life scale of objects in an age of digital imaging.

Cobi Cockburn and Robert Foster are another very successful duo. Cockburn's glass practice has included working in stratified layers of glass, finding interest in subtle gradations in tone and line. Foster, the founder of FINK & co. is also known for his innovative approach to lighting, creating sculptures almost with light itself.  Their work Black Light (mono) and Black Light (duo) are two wall pieces in fused and slumped Bulls eye glass and anodised aluminium. The cylindrical forms have vertical stripes of dark blue light that appear and disappear dependant on your movement. Foster describes their inspiration as deriving from the light modified by venetian blinds. However this does scant justice to these stunning works that seduce by their sleek forms magically transforming light into a vibrant and sensuous element.

Two other designs for lights are also very successful. George Agius and Jason Bird's series of three hanging lights are called Studies in Scream. In their theatrical colour pairings of green and lime, aqua and cerulean and yellow and orange, they do seem to recall the heightened tone of the colour pairings in the famous 1893 painting by Edvard Munch The Scream but this is maybe drawing a long bow. The lamps consist of a blown glass outer cone covering an inside light diffuser and cone head. They are attractive lights whose colourful impact is heightened by the bank of three lights being hung together. Ruth Allen and Makeout design (Dan Lorrimer and Mitchell Brooks) have made three adjustable lamps in glass and machined stainless steel. Allen recycles glass bottles to make her rich glowing glass shades that seem to make a nod towards art nouveau. The lamps are of a practical nature but the glass shades make a decorative contrast to the industrial practicality of their functioning parts.

Kristel Britcher and Gilbert Riedelbauch's work called Step-up combines blown glass with aluminium steel in a glass sculpture that somehow fails to come together convincingly. It seems more like a joining of the ideas of the two artists in a work that does not quite transcend the sum of its parts.

Other works take the form of domestic ware. Mono's (Kumiko Nakajima and John Quan) cake plates are pleasant and practical. However the allocation of the ubiquitous cupcake to its own cake plate like a ritual offering is perhaps a matter of elevating its importance in the cake hierarchy. Lisa Cahill and Chris Hardy's canisters are satisfying and well- crafted objects – the opening in the glass lid is nicely conceived and the etching on the glass lids is delicate and discreet. Likewise,  n.d  (Nadege Desgenetez) and Tom Skeehan have made useful and agreeable glass and wood containers that stack in a well-designed manner. The inside rim in the large glass jar is vital to the concept of their stackability which Desgenetez has noted is only able to be made by hand.

This exhibition was curated by Magda Keaney who presents the works in a well-designed space. The exhibition text on clipboards hung on the wall is a nice touch and its information well worth reading to understand the wide scope of the exhibition and the talent of its participants.

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