Guru Guides Reflect on the Corsini Collection

As A Window on Italy – The Corsini Collection exhibition comes to a close on the 18 June, we catch up with Voluntary Guru Guides Stephanie Watson and Louise Gillett to find out which work was their favourite and what they’ve enjoyed most about the exhibition.

Louise Gillett

Guiding the Corsini has been an exciting ride. To date, I have conducted 18 public tours with four more to go before the show finishes. Researching and preparing has been hugely interesting and I learn more with each tour as patrons ask questions and provide opinions.

Guru Guide Louise Gillett sharing her insights on Botticelli’s Madonna and Child

My favourite work?

The Botticelli, of course! To witness Botticelli’s poignant intention to suggest the Crucifixion in a work depicting Christ as an infant, is very moving. The rendering in tempera with all of the attendant precision and expertise seems to exemplify the artist’s deep Christian conviction, a desire to assert belief in the face of rampant humanism. The classical restraint, beauty and symmetry of those faces- breathtaking! It is always rewarding to guide this work; to provide the Christian explanation to patrons who are not aware of it and to witness the knowing nods of those who are familiar with the narrative and symbolism. This sharing of knowledge and experience in front of great art is what drives me as a Guide.

Stephanie Watson:

My favourite work:
While Botticelli’s touching painting “Madonna and Child with Six Angels” is undoubtedly the star of the show, I am also drawn to Giovanni Santi’s modest work. For me, its evocation of “Birth of Venus” relates to one of the world’s great artistic treasures.

Giovanni Santi’s painting of the Muse of History, Clio, shows her not with her traditional scroll, but enveloped in the gorgeous, swirling drapery of her beautiful blue gown. Fittingly, blue was the most expensive of paint pigments. Her hair floats behind her, echoing not only the movement of her dress but also the trees in the background.

Giovanni Santi (Colbordolo 1435-Urbino 1494) Clio from The Muses circa 1480-90. Tempera on board, 820 x 390mm. Florence, Galleria Corsini

A hallmark of the Renaissance is the device of framing; here rocks and vegetation surround the central image. Another was a renewed interest in the classical world, which interestingly, sat comfortably with the deeply religious mood of the time. Clio’s almost bare feet reflect the philosophy of humanism and naturalism which was replacing the waning Medieval ethos.

The ‘flatness’ of the figure and detachment of the Muse are also elements of that earlier style. The traditional medium of egg tempera on wood panel soon to be overtaken by the new material of oil on linen has also been used. Giovanni’s far more famous son Raphael began his education in the studio of his father at the Palazzo of the Duke of Urbino. While his soaring talent soon outstretched his father’s, this painting can still charm us with its beauty.

A special moment in one of my tours was the texting conversation between one of the visitors to the exhibition and her cousin who was at work in the Palazzo Corsini in Florence at that very moment, bringing extra life to this wonderful exhibition.

 

Corsini Opening Day - A Florentine Festival Day

With so many stories behind each work, our fantastic guides have captured the imagination of over 30,000 visitors since the opening of the exhibition. We thank them for their amazing work.

Advertisements

Tom Moore and that Pyrotechnic puffer fish

studio portrait

It was Tom Moore’s meticulous attention to detail and execution of a unique concept that captured the attention and votes of the Tom Malone Prize judges this year. We talk to Tom Moore about his award-winning piece the Pyrotechnic puffer fish and the challenges facing glass artistry.

Tell us how you came to the idea of the Pyrotechnic puffer fish?

puffer cup

I have been researching how the wider cultural context of Renaissance Italy influenced the kinds of glass objects that were produced and the social functions and meanings of these objects.

During the 16th-century, objects displaying the fine network of white glass lines such as in these goblet-bowls were thought to be imbued with miraculous properties and were collected in cabinets of curiosity alongside specimens of unicorn horn and pufferfish. I saw one of these pufferfish in a Museum in Florence and could not get it out of my head. It seemed weirdly aware of its placement in the collection. This species has an extremely satisfying form to translate and inflate as hot glass.

Renaissance glassmakers were closely aligned with alchemists. The transformation of sand and plant-ash into glass through the intense heat of the furnace was regarded as a marvellous demonstration of human ingenuity and virtuous artifice. The burning match is intended as a reminder of the pyrotechnic nature of this material.  The absurd drinking vessel in the form of a bent funnel refers to laboratory apparatus and to a rich tradition of trick-glasses that were surprising to look at and intentionally difficult to use. The position of the pufferfish as oversized stems adds to the joke.

It’s a very detailed and beautiful piece of work. How long from conception to completion did this project take and were there any challenges along the way?

It is difficult to calculate the amount of time taken to complete complex objects such as these because there are several processes involved over several weeks. Designing the work and preparing all the parts takes many hours. I complete a full-scale drawing that is meticulously planned.  Coloured and clear glass is combined and stretched to make patterned rods. These are used to create the fine patterned lines within the blown forms, and all the small parts: eyes, fins, teeth, match and flame. The final forming of the parts requires an assistant. All in all these works took approximately 30 hours including the assistant.

There is a certain amount of risk involved in working on forms for such prolonged periods. The glass must be re-heated every couple of minutes or it will crack, but it must not be over-heated or it will melt. It is attached to metal rods while it is being worked and these must be kept turning.

Bending the funnel is a risky moment. After focussing heat on the long skinny neck it becomes difficult to control and after bending it is off-centred which makes the constant turning awkward. Putting the dentures into the fishes mouths is a fussy step and I only get one shot to stick them in the right place.

You’ve taken on the challenge of achieving a carbon neutral art practise. Tell us a bit more about this and is it something that glass artists should be using?

As a contemporary artist who has the privilege of continuing to practice a traditional pyrotechnic craft, I feel compelled to address the issues of climate change and environmental degradation.

 

Tom Moore blowing glassI know that there is an inherent contradiction in making objects that overtly display their complicity in continuing to create these problems. I also believe that this contradiction adds to the communicative potential of glass artworks.  I decided that I could not justify continuing to make objects that seek to navigate my concerns without offsetting 150% of the own carbon impact of making. This is a tricky issue to speak about, I don’t feel I can say my colleagues should be minimising and offsetting their carbon impact, however, my own experience has shown that calculating and offsetting an art practice is surprisingly achievable.

This is not the first time you’ve been awarded the Tom Malone Prize. What do you enjoy about the exhibition and will we see another project from you in the next one!

It is very gratifying to have work shortlisted for this prize so that it can sit amongst its peers. It is a great honour to have my work selected twice for inclusion in the permanent collection at AGWA, this helps the audience to appreciate the breadth of an individual art practice and how it evolves over time. I am pleased that some traditional Venetian decorative techniques and references to the historical forms of the goblet and scientific labware are now part of the growing collection.

The wider collection of winners is a unique record of the Australian glassmaking community. I am very grateful to the sponsors of the Tom Malone Prize for giving this group of specialised makers the impetus to strive toward ambitious works.  I am certain that I will continue to participate in this important national survey exhibition.

View the Tom Malone Prize exhibition before it closes 28 May.

To view more of Tom Moore’s work visit his official page.

Images courtesy of the artist Tom Moore.

Meet Tom Malone Prize judge and Australian designer Khai Liew

 

Khai liew
Adelaide based designer and Tom Malone Prize judge, Khai Liew

One of Australia’s most exciting artists, Khai Liew was in Perth to take part in the judging of this year’s Tom Malone Prize – the Gallery’s annual event for showcasing the best in Australian glass art.

Khai Liew is an Adelaide-based designer and adjunct professor with expert knowledge of both South Australian and Australian historical decorative arts and colonial history. For many years he has acted as a private consultant to various national and state institutions advising on acquisition and conservation. Liew’s championing of nineteenth-century Australian material culture as a conservator, consultant and valuer has led him to contribute to significant private and public furniture collections.

As a highly regarded designer, Liew draws on his cultural heritage and historical knowledge to design and produce work that is informed by the old and the new, the regional and international. The production of small editions and one-off commissions takes place in Liew’s Adelaide-based workshop, carried out a select group of highly-skilled craftsmen.

“Much of my work is about telling stories. Communicating a narrative through a visual language while pushing the material in new and exacting ways are characteristic of many visual disciplines and practices,” says Khai.

“Being a judge for the Tom Malone Prize this year was exciting as it’s a medium where artists are continually pushing ways on how to communicate captivating stories through glass. The calibre of works was high and we had a challenging task of selecting a winner. Key design aspects we were looking for however was the clarity of intent, a high level of craftsmanship and whether the work said anything new.”

The Tom Malone Prize was awarded to Tom Moore for his work titled Pyrotechnic puffer fish.  Arguably the country’s most consistently humourous and out-there glass artist, this particular work was unlike anything the judge’s had seen before.

Pyrotechnic Puffer Fish_with figure for scale_600w
Winner of the Tom Malone Prize, Pyrotechnic puffer fish by Tom Moore

This year’s judging panel also comprised of Elizabeth Malone (AGWA Foundation Governor), Stefano Carboni (AGWA Director/CEO) and Robert Cook (AGWA Curator of Contemporary Design and International Art).

Now in its sixteenth year, the Tom Malone Prize is a highly respected national event for contemporary Australian glass artists. An acquisitive prize, each year’s winning entrant is awarded $15,000 while their work becomes a part of the WA State Art Collection. This year, and for the next four years, the Prize is supported by Art Gallery of Western Australian Foundation Benefactor, Sheryl Grimwood.

The Tom Malone Prize is showing at the Gallery until 28 May.

 

TOM MALONE PRIZE: ARTIST STUDIO VISIT

10.30am-12pm, Saturday 5 May 2018
$22 AGWA Members | $28 General Admission
A behind-the-scenes look at the workshop of Perth-based glass artist and winner of the Tom Malone Prize 2017, Marc Leib.

Buy tickets

Year 12 Perspectives Packers’ Prize Winner Sheds light on an ugly truth

 

 

Monkey bars (detail)
Monkey bars by Adelina Holil conveys a powerful message about child labour.

It wasn’t untilAdelina Holil joined Young Mercies, a school group dedicated to raising awareness on issues associated with ethical trading, that she began to learn the ugly truth behind child labour and sweatshops.

Moved by the stories she heard, Adelina focused her energy on creating a powerful piece of work to make consumers question their decisions when it came to the consumption of items created in these sweatshops.

Monkey bars reveal the dark secrets of child exploitation behind the production of our clothing. I want to people to think about where their clothing came from and who made them. I constructed a paradox of the children forced to work by placing them in playful poses on a clothes rack depicting what they should be doing: playing,” says Adelina.

“The designs of the clothes, the chains, ropes and graffiti, symbolise how these children are forced to be slaves and the hardships they endure. The placement of the hangers imitates monkey bars; symbolising a childhood memory they may never have.”

29473215_10156056693150851_8304006374153519104_n
Adelina Holil, winner of the Year 12 Perspectives Packers’ Prize

Its originality, the narrative and technical execution did not go unnoticed by the Gallery with Adelina being awarded the 2017 Year 12 Perspectives Packers’ Prize for her work.

Under the guidance of art teacher and mentor Denise Fitzgerald, Monkey bars took eight months to complete.

“Denise provided guidance throughout the whole process, sharing ideas and showing me where areas of my work could be improved. I definitely think I’ve become a better artist through her.”

Denise has taught art at Mercedes College for almost seven years and believes in challenging her students to find meaning in all their work.

“I challenge my students to consider using materials to add meaning to their artwork and to create visually dynamic compositions,” says Denise.

“Adelina worked extremely hard to apply this advice in the planning of her artwork and we are all extremely proud of her achievement.”

Adelina’s work is on display at the Year 12 Perspectives exhibition currently showing at the Gallery until 16 July 2018.

 

FOR SCHOOLS

We encourage schools who are planning a self-guided visit to Year 12 Perspectives to book in, the information allows us to manage groups and numbers each day and to notify you of anything that might affect your visit.

All school bookings for self-guided tours of Perspectiveseducate@artgallery.wa.gov.au

Study Day: How to be original when nothing is?

10am-3pm, Tuesday 24 April

Teachers $45 | Students $20

Suitable for Teachers and Students Years 9-11

Limited places

Study day is an opportunity for students and their teachers to gain valuable insight into strategies for communicating original ideas in their Year 12 works. The day will include curator insights and tour, expert panel discussion, a practical workshop for students and Professional Development session for teachers, and creative strategies for managing stress. *Morning tea provided, bring your own lunch.

All enquirieseducate@artgallery.wa.gov.au

First Nation artist Julie Dowling

First Nation artist Julie Dowling
First Nation artist Julie Dowling.

First Nation artist Julie Dowling is an activist, a visionary and an artist.  Earlier this week we spoke to Julie about her current exhibition Babanyu – Friends for life showing at the Gallery as part of WA Now and what influences her work.

From the paintings shown in the exhibition, is there one in particular that resonates most with you and if so why?

I think at the moment it’s the portrait of my mother Ronnie Dowling: The neurotic. I remember the many stories she told me as I was painting it.

My mother was an artist but was stopped from pursuing a life as one because her family relied on her for financial support. She became a domestic servant from the age of 11 and finished schooling at 14. When my twin sister and I were born, she began her art again but kept it hidden from the world.

My mother is my friend and teacher. She was and still is very influential in the discipline side of my art making. She taught me how to see art as an extension of my own freedom, of it being part of myself and to talk about everything that surrounds me to the world. My Mum taught me to have a social conscience and eye for justice in all things.

Tell us about the Badimaya culture and how this influences your work?

Badimaya culture was always expressed in clandestine ways before the mid-1980s however it was following this period that my family and I  began to openly express who we were and what we felt about our culture. The Badimaya culture was kept hidden however I was able to learn many things from my grandmother. I learned how to look after the land, its creatures and about how we are all connected to the land. I also learned a smattering of the Badimaya language from my Grandmother. She did not speak it often because she was taught that the language wasn’t legal to speak when she was growing up and feared we would be taken away if we spoke it in public also.

Since the 1980’s I’ve been involved with cultural renewal in my family and within many communities. Culture is an act of empowerment as much as it is a language of being.

Badimaya culture is also land specific as it relates to a place and an environment and without those two/three things acting in unison…language/place/cultural practice then it’s very difficult to see into the universe of knowledge & understanding that still exists here. Our country is north of Dalwalinu to the south, Mt. Gibson to the west, the eastern area of Lake Moore and the land north of Mt. Magnet

What do you hope people will take away from your exhibition and from the stories conveyed through your work?

I hope they see the paintings in terms of documenting a journey or me tracking through everything as a woman, a Badimaya cultural being, someone who is interested in cultural history, decolonisation, First Nation empowerment, ending racism, ending sexism, living my life as a twin and also as a fair-skinned First Nation person. There are many multi-layered contextual meanings in the work and each plays out more in some than in others.

The main objective at present is to end racism. Everything from the cognitive dissonance and white fragility that many white people feel about First Nation people to those that don’t know about how systemic racism can rob First Nation people of many things from land, language to identity. Racism impacts every human being in some way.

What are you working on these days and can you tell us a little bit about it?

I’m working on a great number of miniatures for an exhibition at Midland Junction that is about language and the land. I’ve been contributing to a science called ethnobotany which looks into (with First Nation scientists) how language and the understanding of plants/landscape/environment are all linked. Without an intrinsic interaction with the environment, ethnobotanists have found that humans get depression and a great number of mental disorders over generations.

These miniatures will be mapping the process of moving away from language and land and also the returning to it in the form of de-colonisation and using cultural renewal of my own Badimaya language. I hope it helps people to heal.

Julie Dowling’s free exhibition is showing at the Art Gallery of Western Australia until the 13 August 2018.

Visit Julie Dowling’s official webpage.