by Alaska Young
The interaction between location and an exhibition implies a contextual reading of the artwork and the artist’s intentions. 'My Neon Guardian' is the culmination of pieces of glasswork by four contemporary artists: Verity Jasmin Burley (AUS), Billy James Crellin (AUS), Bastien Thomas (FR), and Eva Novakova (CZ). It’s venue: the cult classic, Grace Emily Hotel. Experiencing this exhibition also includes experiencing the venue, and the combination of these two words brings forth three overlapping themes.
The medium binds these artists to each other and the venue. Downstairs in the optically dense, dark bar, patrons grip murky beverages housed in this substance. Upstairs, the clear white space houses the refined offerings of the four artists who have reimagined glass with very different approaches. Verity Jasmin Burley, finalist in the 2017 Advertiser Contemporary Art Award, has forged the medium with a strong and experienced flair. Almost disguised, the glass is thick and opaque creating a life like series of traffic cones. One of the meaningful offerings an artist can present to an audience is the ability to see the every day anew. By re-examining these disposable objects on the peripheries of our society, they are drawn into focus with the artist’s loving embrace. Billy James Crellin’s glasswork honours both the space created within a vessel and the crystalline transparency of glass. His delicately crafted works titled ‘Yank, Squeeze, Bow’ shape the material into perfect balloon animals. Each fold and curve an impossible visual delight. The muted colour palette complimenting the clearness of intentionality.
The temporary community created by the patrons that frequent The Grace Emily Hotel is mirrored by the kinship artist’s share in a studio space. Burley, Crellin and Thomas are all connected to the fabulous Jam Factory where they craft their work. Adelaide, features a thriving glass scene which as drawn these artist’s to our humble city to hone their craft. Bastian Thomas travelled to study at The Jam Factory and offers a body of work that speaks of a reverence to the material. The vessel work displayed in 'My Neon Guardian' is intricate, delicate and highly skilful. Organic shapes swirl and invite the viewer to dive into his pieces to examine their insides.
Novakova joins the collective from Czechoslovakia, bringing a highly contemporary approach to her treatment of glasswork. Working with panes of glass rather than blown works, Novakova explores the sheets and angles of folded paper. Displaying drawings and a heavily frosted glasswork, ‘shield’, our attention is drawn to the textured surface and densely frosted glass. The material almost unrecognisable. We loose ourselves from the group, pondering the purpose and space this object commands. A collection of artworks, is much like the collection of punters that gather around beers at a bar. A unique and multifaceted group who through common purpose are brought together. They are individuals, infinitely alone, yet bonding in shared space. 'My Neon Guardian', brings together and draws apart. One medium, four very different treatments gathered together.