Craft review: Genius Loci – glass by various artists at Canberra Glassworks
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Craft review: Genius Loci – glass by various artists at Canberra Glassworks

Genius Loci glass by Amy Schleif, Brenda L Croft, Debra Jurss, Brenden Scott French, Denis O'Conner, Emilie Patteson, Hannah Gason, Holly Grace, Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello, Jessica Loughlin, Karen Rogers, Bruce Wilfred and Walter Rogers, Lisa Cahill, Kirstie Rea, Ngaio Fitzpatrick, Janet Laurence. Canberra Glassworks. On until June 3.

Holly Grace, Aglow, 2018, in Genius Loci at Canberra Glassworks.

Holly Grace, Aglow, 2018, in Genius Loci at Canberra Glassworks.

Photo: Paralax Photography

The landscape is a popular curatorial theme for group exhibitions but no matter how many times it is employed I am always surprised at the breadth, depth and diversity of the artists' response. This exhibition is no exception. The participants have an innovative and fresh approach to using glass working with its particular properties so that it becomes a very personal means of expression.

Kirstie Rea, Amy Schleif, Brenden Scott French, Jessica Loughlin and Holly Grace have all created works that celebrate the mystery and beauty of the landscape. Rea's impressive work Open Door 1, 2018, is part of a new series conceived by the artist while on a residency at Launceston Gorge in Tasmania. The digital photograph of the landscape printed on the surface of the glass is reminiscent of a traditional oil painting; however, we are jolted into the present day by a thin line of wire fencing across the gully edge. Framed by Rea's signature glass drapery, the image is inspired by landscape reflections in window glass. It is a work that attracts us initially by the familiarity of the image but offers more than it initially professes, enigmatically crossing a line between interior and exterior perception.

Jessica Loughlin, Unfolding Continuum viii, 2016.

Jessica Loughlin, Unfolding Continuum viii, 2016.

Photo: Rachel Harris
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In two painterly mixed media panels by Denis O'Conner, the artist also uses glass as a conduit between interior and exterior space.

Amy Schleif's work Seeing no.13, 2015 is a romantic vision of a rose-coloured sky on a found glass door panel. Like Rea, she considers the glass window as a mirror – physically and metaphorically bringing the landscape from beyond the window into the interior space inside.

Lisa Cahill, in her three glass panels, follows the path of light in a more abstract way. Using shades of blue and free-flowing brushstrokes in enamel on glass she charts this course dramatically across the landscape.

In Debra Jurss' two free-standing glass panels, the structural lines of the landscape and sea are emphasised and delineated in rhythmic patterns.

Emilie Patteson, Instil Series 1-6, 2015.

Emilie Patteson, Instil Series 1-6, 2015.

Photo: David Patteson

Brenden Scott French uses tiny particles of crushed glass to create his images of light-filled, fecund landscapes reminiscent of the pointillist style used by French artist Georges Seurat (1859-1891).

In contrast Jessica Loughlin's glass panel inspired by salt flats is filled with atmospheric light. However, as you view the work small features detach themselves from the mist and swim into view – a beautiful and haunting work.

Holly Grace's three large glass vessels are outstanding. As her work has grown in scale it has become more impressive. Grace uses many techniques including gold and silver leaf to create her intangible impressions of mountain landscapes. The work Aglow, 2018, with its iridescent colourings is an outstanding example of her use of traditional glassmaking techniques in a contemporary context.

Janet Laurence, Emilie Patteson and Hannah Gason's works involve the natural landscape. Both Laurence and Patteson encase plants as species within test tubes. Laurence's work from 2008 suggests the scrutiny of scientific analysis. Patteson's intriguing series of thick glass tubes encasing examples of flora draws attention to the details of plants and celebrates the wonder of looking at them in detail. Gason's delicate little images of native grasses made as monotypes and scratched on glass draws attention to their fragility and vulnerability when considered in isolation.

A strong sense of belonging to country characterises the work of Jennifer Kemarre Martinello, Brenda L. Croft, Karen Rogers and Bruce Wilfred and Walter Rogers. Martiniello on two flat panels of glass "paints" the markings of country that become deeply meaningful marks of cultural significance.

Croft's three castings in lead crystal of a "found" Aboriginal axe head are set jewel-like in light boxes. Rogers has decorated small oval forms of clear glass with engagingly engraved vignettes of outback lagoons, lilies and fauna from South East Arnhem Land.

The two works by Wilfred and Rogers are innovative wall sculptures made from wood, found objects and fragments of laminated glass. Brought together they have created new ritualistic objects that cleverly narrate and celebrate Aboriginal identity but in a new material form.

Ngaio's Fitzpatrick's video The Sixth Mass Extinction is of an art performance from last year. The performance dramatically draws our attention to the sword of Damocles or in this case a canopy of glass (read climate change) hanging over our collective heads. In the performance five canopies, symbolising eras of extinction, were broken and now only one remains!!

Glass is one of the most exciting and transformative materials used by artists in the creative expression of contemporary culture, as the works in this exhibition so clearly demonstrate.