Long Held Customs: works by Spike Deane, Peter Nilsson and Luna Ryan. Perceived Indifference: installation by Mariana del Castillo. Canberra Glassworks. Until May 12.
Long Held Customs is an exhibition by glass artists Spike Deane, Peter Nilsson and Luna Ryan. The artists use traditional methods of working with glass such as casting, engraving and cold constructed glass techniques to make contemporary glass pieces that have their origins in stories - the stories that are part of our identity and the stories we tell others.
Luna Ryan's small cast glass creatures appear to have escaped from her own imagination and to have been formed by her memories of a Scandinavian world of dark forests and folk tales.
She uses recycled materials such as old television sets, melting the glass screens down to make a grey green glass. This is paired with luminous yellow and green glass for these small sculptures. It is fittingly ironic that a television set, a conduit for the narratives of our time, is recast to tell stories of folk tales and fantasy. In the work Forest Islands with little creatures Ryan places her small creatures in among forests of glass twigs. In The Silent Scream behind the screen (shadow play), the small creatures at the front of the glass screen are duplicated behind it as black shadows - perhaps a reference to the interface of life and art.
Deane was born in Germany to English parents who emigrated to Australia, she retained the memories of European forests, prompting her interest in fairy tales.
Deane's romantic work Born of Flowers is a stop-motion animation installation. A projected figure dances across the gallery wall before stooping to pick flowers. Both she and the flowers are then caught up in a circular dance before morphing into a whirlwind of feathers. These feathers are transformed into an owl that "returns" to its image depicted on a glass sculpture.
Nilsson's work in the 2017 Hindmarsh Glass Prize was a sculpture of a woolly mammoth encased within glass. It was inspired by a childhood story about a hunter in 1909 finding an intact woolly mammoth in the Siberian permafrost.
In his art practice Nilsson has been skilfully engraving figurative images suspended in glass. His breathtaking work Where are we going? depicts a polar bear encased like a specimen inside glass and reflects the artist's concern about the disappearance of the world's animals.
Two other works are based on Scandinavian folktales - Nacken, Neck water spirit and The green dress, the Huldra. The Nacken is the stronger sculptural form of the two. The water spirit appears to rise effortlessly through the glass as if it is, indeed water, and is accompanied by a delicate flowering plant that is a beautiful study of nature.
The green dress, the Huldra is a more ornate sculpture where the form of Huldra is almost hidden like a forest spirit in the complexity of the decoration.
Mariana del Castillo's installation Perceived Indifference investigates how the effect of culture and memory remains a part of one's identity even if that culture is abandoned or lost. A visit to the family home in Ecuador after 40 years away caused the artist to reflect on her memories of another time and place.
Her two pink torsos are perhaps recreations of the artist's persona. Their construction from recycled textiles evoke the memories of her mother and grandmother.
These figures are decorated with found objects like wrapped bottles and ornamented with small glass balls that reinforces a sense of their fragility. Their meaning transcends the limitations of words and asks for a more emotive response that encompasses the two figures that make such a poignant duo in the dark, empty space.