Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello and Sharon Peoples: Between Earth and Sky. Mark Eliott: Essence of Cloud. Craft ACT. Until May 22, 2021
Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello and Sharon Peoples were both artists-in-residence at the Gudgenby Ready-Cut Cottage, Namadgi National Park in 2020. The challenges of last year must have made the three weeks they were able to spend in this special place all that more precious. Both artists have produced some exceptional work to reflect this experience.
Sharon Peoples is renowned for using the techniques of traditional embroidery to create work in a contemporary idiom. Over the last few years she has been influenced by the concept of the hortus conclusus, the small walled gardens of medieval times. She encases her own tiny and exquisite embroideries of gardens in old spectacle and jewellery cases.
In this exhibition the embroidered gardens are replaced by embroidered images of thylacine skins (Thylacine Skin nos. 2-4) ironically underlying that now as a species thylacines only exist as specimens.
Peoples' emotive response to the bird songs and the native flora of Namadgi runs through her work, especially in her artists' book of drawings and observations and in the large installation Namadgi Gardening Gloves. In the latter work the artist creates rhythmic dance-like musical notations with her signature garden gloves embroidered with the burgeoning life of flowers and plants. Small embroidered birds, butterflies and moths dance around these gloves in joyful celebration.
Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello is always sensitive to her Indigenous culture. In this residency she collected and studied native plant fibres with a view to using this knowledge in future works. In glass, a medium she has now been using more often, she has created a series of vessels (Caring for this country series) beautifully evoking the forms of Aboriginal coolamons and water carriers ornamented with the dried grasses and feathers that she collected in Namadgi.
Her series of miniature landscapes (the Namadgi series) in multi-coloured glass artfully reflect the rock formations of Namadgi and the distinctive outlines of its fire scarred ridges. Essence of Cloud is a complex multilayered conceptional exhibition where glass artist Mark Eliott aided by numerous colleagues has created, through dioramas and sculpture, video, photographs and found objects, a fantastic story drawn from his own imagination informed and coloured by the myths and legends from many multicultural sources.
Christian iconography, medieval stained glass, legends inspired by Asian religions, and alchemy are all stirred together as in an apothecary's jar and then spiced perhaps with a whiff of toad and mandrake root to make up a heady, cloudy mixture.
The narrative is as hazy, elusive and nebulous as the clouds that float as images throughout the works, losing its way in the twists and turns of the many components that make up the exhibition.
The artist is skilled in flame worked glass and some of the small glass sculptures are miniature essays in this skill.
Particularly delightful are the small figures (Cloudy Head), the "cloud" balloon (Cloud harvest over West Wycombe) and then, most impressively, the Noah's ark ship (All in the one boat) with its small life-like glass animals.
I also liked the series of dioramas in their specially "found" wooden cases that reminded me of the Christian Stations of the Cross or the early Nativity framed dioramas found in European churches.
I don't think the artist would object to a "pick and choose what appeals to you" approach to this richly imagined and multifaceted exhibition because Essence of Cloud is an exhibition where you are welcome to be a traveller (if not a voyeur) into the dream-like fantasy world of the artist.