In the exhibition called The Way We Eat, at the Art Gallery of NSW, there is reference to the peach in traditional Chinese art.
It is associated with the legendary immortal Dongfang Shuo represented in the exhibition by a ceramic figurine of an old man with a peach in his left hand.
According to legend, he was banished from heaven for stealing peaches from a mother goddess.
Peaches have a long history in China where they can be traced back to 1000BC when they grew as a wild fruit. Introduced into Europe, they were cultivated and became a species of fruit that only had a short shelf life before decay.
In Jacqueline Bradley's glass and mixed media exhibition at the Canberra Glassworks, she uses the peach and by extension other stone fruit as an imaginative inspirational beginning for her meditation on growth, ripening and decay.
The name of the exhibition, the tender, refers to the tender flesh of peaches and our own bodily flesh, both of which engage our sensory perceptions.
In the works Gift and Fruit that introduce the exhibition, the roundness, desirability and tactile quality of the peach is signified by the actual fruit being present.
In Gift the peach and its seeds are cupped in two heavy cast glass containers as if held in two hands as an offering.
In another related work, Halves, two pink glass cups echo the form of the halved peach.
Peach stones with their linear patterned ridges and characteristic texture become the images that appear in other works. They are cast in bronze to become stamps on the end of long stalks (Stamps), collected in a long thin phial of golden coloured glass (Two Pits) or have their forms molded into thick slabs of cast glass as in Four Stones and Fair Weather.
The Peach Crown cast in bronze is particularly evocative with the jewels on the finials of a traditional crown being replaced by peach stones.
The dark roughly worked crown is suggestive of power and brings with it Shakespearean associations, for me at least, of symbolic hollow crowns fought over by kings.
Although it may not be the intention of the artist, it also reminded me of the crown of thorns that you see on the head of Christ in some churches.
The clear pink-coloured glass crown Cherry Crown is more benign with its finials being based on plump cherries.
The hung coils of clear glass in Rings and the clear glass canes in Apple sticks suggest the growing systems of plants.
In Apple sticks, the long glass canes are interwoven with actual branches that lean against the wall - the natural material contrasting pleasantly with the clear glass.
And easily missed is the long thin red line of flame-worked red glass embedded in the gallery floor.
In this exhibition there is a sense that the artist is experimenting with the medium of glass and casting, in tandem with pursuing ideas and the best means of expressing them.
Some of the smaller works tend to get lost in the gallery space which is not always sympathetic to intimate pieces.
Jacqueline Bradley is an artist who works with all manner of materials to create sculptures, assemblages and installations that investigate the crossover points between our social conventions and the outdoor environment.
She created this new body of work in 2021-2022 as part of the artist in residence program at the Canberra Glassworks.
Bradley was assisted by several of the artists at the Canberra Glassworks whose expertise in glass she acknowledges in the exhibition catalogue.
Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.