Glass miniatures with a big story to tell

Glass Miniatures - Ben Edols and Kathy Elliott, Jessica Loughlin, Ian Mowbray, Donald Friedlich, Moje. E. and Mel Douglas. Bilk Gallery for Contemporary Metal and Glass, Manuka. Until March 23.

Ben Edols and Kathy Elliott. <i>Grey Surge</i>. Photo: Supplied

Ben Edols and Kathy Elliott. Grey Surge. Photo: Supplied

Bilk Gallery has established ongoing exhibitions of miniature works by eminent glass artists. Included in the current exhibition are also works from previous Miniature collections.

Ben Edols and Kathy Elliott have just had an extensive exhibition of their work at the Beaver Galleries in Canberra (February 2019). It displayed their versatility and ability to follow new paths of exploration into design motifs and forms. The work on show at the Bilk Gallery centres around a set of aesthetics evolved from Eastern forms and motifs.

The work Grey Surge, a long elongated bottle, is decorated by deeply scored lines that display a bravado display of skilled glass cutting. The broad sweep of the wave, a motif recalling the famous 1830 Great Wave image from a woodblock by Hokusai, folds around the form of the bottle in a watery embrace.

Evening Surge is a smaller work (15x12cm) which is a consummate melding of technical mastery and aesthetic understanding. The red glass and handles of the vase form derive perhaps from the glossy reds of Asian lacquer but the texture of silver crackle of the top half of the form is also suggestive of the fine crackle glazes of Asian porcelain.

These influences suggest a tantalising nod to Asian sensibilities yet in the hands of these consummate artists the work is far from a pastiche of styles. Its integrated form exerts a confident authority.

Jess Loughlin, <i>Light spill iii</i>. Photo: Supplied

Jess Loughlin, Light spill iii. Photo: Supplied

Jessica Loughlin’s work derives from an intensely felt relationship with landscape. Influenced by the flat landscapes of the salt flats of South Australia, Loughlin is drawn to their indefinable and featureless space between land and sky.

Loughlin works with flat sheets of both opaque and translucent glass that are fused together in the kiln to make flat glass works that are either free-standing or wall-mounted. Little round 2019 is a small (18x25cm) free-standing work. Its muted palette of soft blue hues suggests a space into which the viewer is invited to enter to experience its poetic mood of timelessness and infinity.

The work of Mel Douglas sits easily alongside that of Loughlin. Both artists find the technical aspects of making their work a meditative experience. Loughlin paints her glass panels with glass powders and grinds their surface planes in a time consuming process.

Mel Douglas, petite point line plane, blown glass. Photo: Supplied

Mel Douglas, petite point line plane, blown glass. Photo: Supplied

Douglas works within a constrained colour palette. Her small bowls are etched finely in concentric rings revealing subtle colourings in the layers of glass thereby softening the appearance of her surfaces and giving them a soft texture.

Ian Mowbray’s exhibition at Bilk Gallery in September provided a glimpse of this artist’s sardonic and unflinching view of life. The work in the current exhibition comes from his plunge cast glass series. The artist carves small objects –in this instance a series of specifically named handguns which are then "plunged" into another cube of molten glass (50cm x 50cm x 50cm).

This cube is then cooled leaving the gun suspended like an insect in amber. In the accompanying series The Blackened Heart, the gun is replaced by a dark blue heart. The meaning of both emotive objects remains enigmatic - incorruptible now, they remain suspended in time and space.

Ian Mowbray, Blackened Heart. Photo: Supplied

Ian Mowbray, Blackened Heart. Photo: Supplied

Donald Friedlich trained in America and is a graduate from the Rhode Island School of Design. He works and exhibits internationally. Friedlich’s connection with Australia began in 2004 when he was the keynote speaker at the International Jewellers Conference in Melbourne.

He then went on to become artist-in-residence at the Canberra School of Art. Friedlich has been working on his Lumina series since 2017. Initially drawn to the characteristics that make jewellery unique, he found inspiration in the concept of jewellery as “art in motion”.

Influenced by the colour saturated canvases of Mark Rothko and the light sculptures of Dan Flavin and James Tyrrell, Friedlich’s jewellery in the Lumina series could be likened to internally lit neon strips. The Lumina series is magical – the intense light-saturated colours appear and disappear when the objects are viewed from different angles.

The artist’s creative pairing of both light and sophisticated forms make this series an example of contemporary jewellery on the cutting edge.

And among such luminaries of glass, the spirit of the late Klaus

Donald Friedlich, Lumina Series Brooches,
borosilicate glass, dichroic glass, 14K gold Photo: Supplied

Donald Friedlich, Lumina Series Brooches, borosilicate glass, dichroic glass, 14K gold Photo: Supplied

Moje (1936-2016) is present in the three small glass objects made by his son, designer Amos Enders-Moje. German born Klaus Moje was the influential founding head of the Glass Workshop at the Canberra School of Art.

To make these small shallow bowls Enders-Moje used the last of the Frankfurt factory Hessenglas coloured glass rods so integral to his father’s initial art practice and brought by him to Australia when he migrated here in 1982.

This story Glass miniatures with a big story to tell first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.