In this new exhibition at the Canberra Glassworks, The Tree, artists such as Yusuke Takemura, Bridget Thomas, Belinda Toll and Melinda Willis have considered the beauty of the tree, its place in myth and the use and exploitation of its varied bounties.
Laurie Young and Christian Arnold have chosen to depict the tree in ancient mythology.
Their small glass sculpture in flame-worked glass and pate de verre celebrates the legend of the nymph Daphne.
She was turned into a laurel tree by her father, Peneus the river god, in order to escape the lustful pursuit of Apollo.
This glass sculpture is rich in colour, lustre and sculptural detail. And if it is just that tiny bit over the top, its extravagant style suits the fantasy of its subject.
Alexandra Frasersmith's poetic work Fallen, by contrast, is a gentle depiction of fallen autumn leaves.
Her three delicately moulded forms in amber glass arranged in a circle may suggest a wreath on a grave, or it might simply mean the end of summer. It is an imaginative work that opens itself up to many interpretations.
Holly Grace's two engraved glass panels, titled Smoke, are also a lyrical celebration of the beauty of trees. Her delicate linear depictions of branches are like reflections seen on glass.
These branches in turn cast shadows that make it seem as if their images are reflected on the wall behind the glass - a clever interplay of image and shadow.
Brian Sewell's white and black ovoid glass vessel Regrowth has bold patterns of black trees overlaid on a white background. Sewell uses the blown glass forms as surfaces for his graphic images of the landscape. The imagery of trees with their simplified forms and dark, heavy lines seems to suggest the directness of a black line woodcut.
Clare Belfrage's ovoid form Midway in green glass is perhaps suggestive of the life-form of seeds and eggs. The form is outwardly described by irregular woven patterns of thin lines that emphasise the ovoid shape, while inside the interior glass has subtle levels of darker-green bands that give the form an energy suggestive of potential growth.
The concept of evolving forms is expressed by Takemura in his work Routes. This is a beautifully realised sculpture where a clear glass bowl-like form is married very successfully to a real twig on which the artist has created small globules of bright glass that appear as nascent buds.
Harriet Schwarzrock's very successful work breathe gives the impression of being alive.
Her delicately coloured blue and green glass forms curve and appear to flicker and move in a celebratory dance of life. Kirstie Rea's work Tree Journal is a good example of the artist's sophisticated minimalist approach to form. Two slightly rounded dark-green strips of glass are enlivened by darker strips of green that visually turn the work inwards, subtly evoking roundness of form and establishing a symbiotic relationship between the two.
Tom Moore's work demonstrates the continuing power of his imagination.
The blue-glass Branching Barracuda has joined the other wondrous creatures that inhabit the artist's imaginative landscape.
The barracuda is entrapped in a specimen glass dome. Its fins become the branches growing from the dome, while an eye balefully surveys the spectator through a specially created aperture.
At the heart of the exhibition is the work Unless by Sui Jackson.
The artist has created a mini forest of 100 small glass trees made like cardboard cut-outs. The glass Jackson uses is transparent or in various shades of green and yellow. and is reclaimed from old church windows.
Visitors to the exhibition can buy one of these trees (the price is symbolic of what trees fetch commercially) and their purchased tree will then be replaced by a glass stump. This invites the active participation of the viewer in its constantly changing landscape.
By the end of the exhibition we will only be able to surmise what the forest would have looked like originally! And, as if we really needed another reminder of the plight of forests, Tim Edwards' uncompromising work Stump displayed nearby as a dark and sombre-coloured glass tree stump leaves us in no doubt.
The Tree is on at the Canberra Glassworks until 8 May. Entry is free. 11 Wentworth Avenue, Kingston. See canberraglassworks.com
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