Miniature Glass 17. By Tom Moore, Richard Whiteley, Giles Bettison, Clare Belfrage, Mel Douglas, Tom Rowney and Hannah Gason. Bilk Gallery for Contemporary Metal and Glass. Until February 25.
Miniature glass exhibitions have become a feature of the Bilk Gallery program. This year the miniature glass exhibition is part of the exhibition component of the 2017 Ausglass conference held in Canberra in January this year.
Miniatures can present a challenge, particularly to artists who like to work on a much larger scale. A miniature work needs to function as a convincing entity in its own right and not simply be a study for a much larger work. In fact, Tom Moore's two works Mycelium and Ducks in Boots gain a great deal from their small scale, which emphasises the delicacy he obtains through his masterly use of Venetian style cane work. His two glass creatures are imprisoned in small glass display cases in the gallery like exotic species discovered by a 19th century Victorian explorer. Moore has based his glass form Mycelium on a bacterial fungus. He has given it strange eyes and beautifully decorated thread-like branching hyphae that protrude from a bulbous "head". Plant or beast? It is hard to tell. Ducks in boots is defined by its ornate decoration of intricate linear patterns in glass and its slightly comical air. It is a more easily identified animal-like being that fits readily into Moore's wonderful menagerie of imaginative and magical creations.
Tom Rowney's collection of tiny tops, cups and bowls is on the same held-in-the-hand scale as paperweights. They are exquisite little jewel-like works where pattern and decoration are beautifully suited to each form. Their opulence and craftsmanship remind me of the intricacy of Russian Faberge eggs and objets d'art. Especially attractive is the small black and gold bowl with its black zanfirico-style cane work as well as Honey Pot, decorated with gold cane patterns heightened with gold leaf.
Clare Belfrage's small rounded vessels made in the more delicate colours of earth and sky appear as if sculpted by nature so they fit together as harmoniously as river pebbles. Their glass forms are translucent and light enlivens their surfaces, heightening their colours like water flowing over stones. Linear patterns in cane work like natural markings are drawn across the surface of these forms defining them in free-flowing linear designs. In Holding#1 and #2 the decoration becomes more complex with the lines looping into each other to create delicate patterns that encase rather than delineate their forms.
Giles Bettison's works have the same intricacy of decoration that is found in the work of Tom Rowney and Tom Moore. However his complex and colourful patterns of murrine glass in a millefiori-like style form the structure of the work itself. This series is inspired by textiles and lace and reflects their modes of rhythmic structures and repeating patterns very well. The square and round dishes do not have the heightened colour of the two biggest forms but are more delicate in style creating rhythmic patterns of colour that dance like musical notations across the glass.
Richard Whiteley's Absence is a cool and sophisticated glass creation – a geometric cube where contrasts between solid and void, light and shadow are played out across its surface and interior spaces. The other three works Tree, Chariot and Voss are in kiln-cast glass and are invitingly tactile, and almost lumpy in shape. They challenge our perception of the hardness of glass. Perhaps they relate to Whiteley's interest in MRI and CT interior body imaging in their body-like shapes, bumps and apertures. Certainly a playful sense of individuality is expressed in their unusual forms and enigmatic titles.
Mel Douglas' series of beautifully balanced glass vessels with their encircling engraved linear patterns have the authority of much larger works. Despite their monumentality they demonstrate the way that objects can touch the earth very gently. Douglas has paired these vessels with a series of unique prints using a very intensive and time-consuming technique to "draw" the similar shape of these forms in glass onto paper.
Hannah Gason's wall panels are created by fusing irregular pieces of coloured glass chosen with the artist's highly attuned sensitivity to colour and structure. Gason works with colour, light and form and her beautiful compositions of coloured glass are heightened by light as it travels across the irregular surfaces of the panels creating subtle passages of rich colour. Gason's skill lies in the way she brings these coloured glass shapes together in harmonious yet lively abstract patterns enriched with enigmatic markings that evoke for me the majesty of old stained glass windows in dimly lit medieval churches.