Review: Keith Rowe - Dry Land

Glass at Bungendore Wood Works Gallery, Bungendore 

An Independent Review by Meredith Hinchliffe.

The action of blowing hot glass is seductive: for the artist who loves to do it, fo viewers who admire the processes and for those who see the final product and take it home.

Keith Rowe, from the Blue Mountains in New South Wales, is a glass blower, and also a photographer. He has travelled around western parts of the state and Queensland, photographing the vast landscape: the huge horizons, the dry colours of the land with sparse vegetation and the rare floods of Lake Mennindi.

His expresses his passionate and emotional response to the outback through glass blowing, with individual works that make up multiple series of vases and bowls derived from the images in his photographs.

This exhibition features several large digital photographs of his most recent outback journey. They are shown with many vessels – occasionally too many – and underline the relationship between the two art forms. Mendooran, a large bowl, depicts trees, leaves, birds and vegetation that sweep around its exterior surface with rhythm and energy. Two photographs of Lake Mennindi in flood, exhibited close by, capture the moment.

Many of the vessel forms are similar in that the colour and decoration focusing on their bases fades towards the rim. Clouds of colour curve up the walls of the form in bright bursts – speckles of colour add visual texture. Garah is noticeably different with tiny motifs floating more randomly all over the surface, evoking birds in the sky.

Writing this, I realise that the photographs of Lake Mennindi and the vessels that come from them, have remained in my mind’s eye. Garah captures the pink, milky colour of the water in the lake. The silhouettes of the birds sitting in dead trees punctuate the pale, cloudy sky.

Many artists are fascinated with the point between the land and the sky in the flat Australian outback. Rowe explores this too and succeeds in several instances.

Small vases forms Rock #1 and Rock #2 capture the surface and striations of rocks, with colours that reflect those in the landscape.

Rowe has lightly engraved the surfaces of a number of vessels and has kept the others glossy and smooth. As well as giving surface texture, each refracts and reflects the light differently and viewers will be rewarded by a closer look at examples. The eye is drawn to the colours beneath the surface.

This glass artist has worked with glass for over twenty years and continues to retain enthusiasm for the medium. Rowe tells us that he is passionate about his work and about his explorations of the Australian landscape. He says: “What appears subtle and uninteresting upon closer inspection shows a rich tapestry of sensual experience”. He seeks to bring this rich tapestry to viewers through the medium of glass blowing, and many of the works succeed. The colours and variety of images captured within the layers of glass give us a visual feast of colour and dynamic energy.

I do feel there are too many objects on exhibit in the gallery – and perhaps this is exacerbated by the similarity in form. It is a vibrant exhibition, however, full of colour and emotion and definitely worth a visit to the thriving village of Bungendore.

© Meredith Hinchliffe
February 16, 2011

Tuesday 02 November 2010