Monday, December 14, 2009

Looking Glass

"New Beginnings" from 'Life Within Series, 2009. Ben Young.
Photo: Quinn O'Connell, Courtesy Sarjeant Gallery.
Wanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery has opened its first large scale exhibition featuring the work of New Zealand glass artists and I for one, wish I could be in Wanganui to see it. I like the central idea of the show – ‘reflecting ideas,’ which refers to the brief each of the 21 participating artists was given, “to reflect on the ways in which their idea had evolved, and show its relationship to their interest in glass and the process of making their work.” Each was asked to present a group of three works that would show the scope and development of an idea – in some cases one of the three pieces may be the trigger point for the final glass work, the source of their idea.
"Bombora Gigantes" 2009. Lee Brogan.
Photo: Lee Brogan. Courtesy Sarjeant Gallery
Wanganui is well known as a major centre of glass art in New Zealand. The then Wanganui Polytechnic (now Wanganui UCOL) started its glass studios way back in the 1980s. I was living in Wanganui then and was always enthralled by the stream of international glass artists who visited the polytech and its annual summer schools. Since then, the glass arts have flourished. Today the Wanganui Glass School is a leading glass teaching facility and around thirty practising glass artists live in the town. Wanganui also hosts an annual Festival of Glass in September, featuring exhibitions, hot glass demonstrations and studio visits. The Chronicle Glass Studio, home to a collective of glassblowers is also a major attraction. I love the fact that they’ve colonised the old, 1912 newspaper building in the old part of town near the river, converting the old press pit into their glass-blowing facility with a retail gallery in the mezzanine area above.
"Quill" 2009. Crystal Chain Gang: Jim Dennison & Leanne Williams.
Photo: Emma Smith. Courtesy Sarjeant Gallery. Throughout all that, the Sarjeant Gallery has been keeping an eye on things. Back in 2002 they hosted The Cast, which was followed in 2004 by Southern Exposure – two glass exhibitions that featured a range of practitioners. Initiated by members of the glass fraternity, they focussed on “what was happening there and then.” The current much larger exhibition, “Looking Glass: reflecting ideas,” has been organised by the Sarjeant and curated by Grace Cochrane and Sydney and Greg Donson, who were keen to “drill down deeper,” to offer insights into how each artist had reached their final creative work. The show continues at Sarjeant Gallery until March 14, 2010.

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