Clare Belfrage: A Measure of Time. Canberra Glassworks. Until January 19, 2019.
There is a feeling of serenity about Clare Belfrage's works in glass in the JamFactory ICON travelling exhibition that are borne from the artist's observations of the natural world. This is especially noticeable in the Smokehouse gallery space where four orbed glass vessels from the Quiet Shifting series stand on plinths like benign sentinels.
Belfrage's career spans more than 30 years. Originally from Melbourne, she grew up in Adelaide and has has a peripatetic professional career. A university ceramic design course introduced her to working with hot glass and it resonated so well with her that she decided this was the path she wanted to follow.
Her professional links with JamFactory date from 1996 when she was production manager of the Glass Department.
Belfrage speaks eloquently of the rhythms of nature that flow around us often unnoticed or unobserved
Importantly for Canberra, Clare Belfrage contributed greatly to the Canberra Glassworks when she was creative director from 2009-2013.
Belfrage is not interested only in making hollow glass vessels but is compelled to push further into engaging more fully with the glass surface. To this end she works with long canes or glass threads (stringers) that are laid over the blown glass form - a method of drawing with a glass line. These strips are then fused onto the glass to be either left raised on the surface or rubbed back to provide an integrated and coloured matt surface.
The raised glass threads are notable in works such as Quiet Shifting - Grey and Green where these glass threads cover the surface of the vessel like a network of weaving. In Holding Time - Dark Grey, the glass threads become almost transparent ribbon-like strands that encompass the dark body of the vessel like pale floating tendrils. In two works called Shedding - Dark Grey and Shedding - Blue Grey, the threads are "drawn" evocatively to suggest the natural textures and patterns made by shed bark.
In Impressions - Russet on Grey/ Purple, glass shards are added to the surface of the glass to create large open shapes on the glass resembling the marks of gnarled tree trunks. In the Quiet Shifting series, the glass threads on the surface of the vessels are melded together so that they dance down the vessels like hanging leaves defined by softly muted colour washes.
Belfrage speaks eloquently of the rhythms of nature that flow around us often unnoticed or unobserved. She recalls seeing a long spine of grass blown by the wind inscribing an arc as it bent back and forth. This poetic image becomes a leitmotiv for those series of works where her network of glass threads drawn over the surface of the vessels reflect the artist's response to the rhythm of these quiet life forces.
A Measure of Time, as well as being the exhibition title is also the title of a film about the artist directed by Randy Larcombe.
In it, Belfrage speaks movingly about her work giving us a deeper level of insight into her creative process. The works in glass themselves are the tangible outcome of this process.
They exist, not only as beautiful objects, but also as the visible sign of the artist's engagement with the natural world and her ability to develop a means of communicating this experience into glass.