Tom Malone Prize 2019 for Australian glass artists

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Now in it’s 17th year the highly respected Tom Malone Prize showcases the transformative, enlightening and inspirational power of glass. This year saw pieces from twelve aspiring and highly experienced Australian glass artists. With only a dozen shortlisted pieces on show you might think ‘why bother’, but this is the best of the best, and I can tell you that the winning piece alone is well worth the trip into the Art Gallery of WA (AGWA).

Down at the water table. Photo Credit: Richard Weinstein

On Tuesday March 14th AGWA Director Stefano Carboni, awarded the prize to NSW artist Mark Eliott (see above). His work Down at the water table is a whimsical, intricate, and quietly beautiful piece. The idea for the piece originated during a drink at the pub, as they do. It’s impossible not to chat to the person next to you while viewing at this piece or leave without a smile on your face. I was thrilled to hear that the piece will become a part of the State Art Collection, so patrons can check in on it during other trips to the gallery.

One of the judges, Robert Cook (AGWA Curator of 20th Century Arts) said of the work:

“As we moved around the highly competitive field of this year’s truly outstanding works, we found ourselves coming back to our eventual winner: Mark Eliott’s wonderful Down at the water table. What an unusual piece! Cartoony but not humorous, whimsical but not impulsive, it’s entirely in keeping with the offbeat, ever-inventive work Mark has been making over the last 20 years. It’s the first time an artist using predominantly flame-work has won the Prize, and it’s a brilliant example of the possibilities inherent in this technique. Fluid and downright untamed, Down at the water table feels simultaneously carefully planned and totally seat-of-the-pants improvised. Either way, it’s a delicate high-wire act of technical skill, yet also a very intimate work. There’s a lot to observe at close detail and a stack of surprises to be encountered (like the figures in the upside-down human/canine realm) and really beautiful chromatic nuances. It’s brilliantly fresh in all ways, and we couldn’t be happier with Mark’s piece as a winner for 2019.”

Mark Eliott completed a Masters of Visual and Studio arts at Sydney College of the arts, Jazz studies at Sydney conservatorium and is currently undertaking a PHD at the Australian National University. He also teaches Flame-work at Canberra Glassworks and does interactive demonstrations. In explaining the origins of the piece he said “it all started down at the local (where else?), after a solid rain. We were having a good natter over a drink when we accidentally bumped branches under the table. Next thing mycorrhizal fungi connected and it was all on for young and old. Since reading Peter Wohlleben’s The hidden life of trees, I am no longer able to see these organisms merely as chunks of wood with bark and leaves on, but as entities with some kind of undeniable intelligence and character. Instead I now commit the different sin of anthropomorphising them. In this 3D cartoon the human/canine story is incidental while the trees take centre stage.”

Congratulations Mark, I will definitely go online and seek out other works by you.

Some of the other pieces that drew my attention were:


Photo: Michael Haines

Landscapes by Lewis Batchelar (SA) uses blown glass with murrine, lathe-worked and pumice to create a new landscape. Like Batchelar I hail from New Zealand, consequently I was enthralled by his depiction of the snow-peaked mountains of Aotearoa. The fine blue and white detailing reminiscent of melting glaciers. Make sure you take a close look at this one.

Structure 2 (from the Aspect series)

Photo: Rob Little

Structure 2 (from the Aspect series) by Jeremy Lepisto (ACT). Using fabricated and kiln-formed glass, the piece gives us two ideas in one. Viewed from one direction the piece looks like three abstract panels detailing building elements, yet from another the viewer sees a home. The elements create a whole. I wish I could display it in my home.

Intersect Neodymium Gold

Photo: Rob Little

Intersect Neodymium Gold, a blown, fused, carved and tinted piece by Matthew Curtis (ACT). The piece represents cellular growth with the elements bisecting and rejoining. I found myself going back to this one several times. I can only imagine how stunning it would look with the sunlight shining through it.

Red Sedge Reeds Fish Trap

Photo Art Atelier

Red Sedge Reeds Fish Trap by Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello (ACT) uses blown glass with canes, and cold-worked. The result smooths out the normally unforgiving fish traps made by Aboriginal weavers from Arnhem Land. I’ve seen many a fish trap depicted in other exhibitions but never one made from glass. The ridges of colour beautifully depicted the ageing traps.

Birds not of a feather- unflocked

Photo M. Kluvanek

Birds not of a feather- unflocked by Stephen Skillitzi (SA) takes several observations to appreciate all the anthropomorphic detail. Made of blown and lampworked glass, the two scary looking birds bely the fragility of the material. In multilayering this piece Skillitzi wanted to reflect the complexities of human interaction, well he definitely nailed the intricacy.

Myth of the Cave

Photo Keith Rowe

In contrast, the simplicity of Myth of the Cave by Kayo Yokoyama (NSW) is a reprieve after the explosion of colour in the previous work. In this piece a single tear drop reflects water dripping in a dark cave, the hand-engraved tree representing the branches that shrouded the entry.

Other Australian artists represented include, Clare Belfrage (SA), Marc Leib (WA), Nick Mount (SA), Liam Fleming (SA), Anne Sorensen (WA).

Thanks must go to the AGWA for putting on this exhibition along with this year’s judging panel of Aimee Frodsham (Creative Director at the Canberra Glassworks), Elizabeth Malone (Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation Benefactor), Dr Stefano Carboni (Director, Art Gallery of Western Australia and Robert Cook (AGWA Curator of 20th Century Arts). Particular thanks should also go to Ms Sheryl Grimwood, AGWA Foundation Benefactor, for her support of the awards.

“I’m delighted once again to support the incredible art form of glass within Australia through the Tom Malone Prize. Each year, I am in awe of the creativity, beauty and deep thought apparent in the shortlisted works”, said Ms Grimwood. “I urge everyone to visit this year’s wondrous display.”

The Tom Malone Prize 2019 is a free exhibition on display at AGWA until 13 May 2019

For more information go to Art Gallery of WA

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