Sunday, October 11, 2009

...and over there are the cranes of Sagrada

Phil Elson
6-24 October 2009
Skepsi On Swanston

It wasn't just the reference to cranes in the title that enticed me to the opening of Phil Elson's exhibition. I have been an admirer of his work for many years.
Grouping unglazed, statuesque vessels next to his more recognisable glazed bowls the show represented a personal response to travels in Barcelona and I caught his floor talk last Friday which touched on this subject.

Phil spoke about his enjoyment of Gaudi's architecture but also of his experience of artist Richard Serra's work, stating that "if it is humanely possible to create a spiritual place" then Serra achieves this in his sculptures.

An interesting idea given spirituality's inherent other worldliness.


A couple of years ago I 'experienced' a Serra exhibition at MOMA. Walking through his immense rust coloured, curved walls provoked the feeling that a slight shift in time and space had occurred and I was immediately taken back to a childhood experience of passing between rock walls at Hanging Rock, a volcanic rock structure and sacred place for local Aboriginal people of the Macedon region in Victoria.

I enjoyed hearing Mr Elson's account of his travels. But I have to admit I didn't quite see how this was imbued in the pieces in this exhibition. Perhaps this is not important? The impetus to create doesn't always relate to the final enjoyment of an artwork.

There is no doubt Phil Elson is a master of his craft and there is a high wow-factor in the throwing ability required for his larger pieces.

But at the risk of crying "I like your old stuff better than your new stuff" it is his simple, small glazed bowls that engage me.

Floating half-hemispheres that are resolved, gentle and calm. The glazes have a highly reflective surface and although opaque have a depth into which you can fall. And the colours - well - no point going on really, you just have to see them for yourself.

I still love it when an artwork is simply beautiful.

1 comment:

shannon said...

I agree about Phil's bowls. He is just perfect at throwing and glazing the simplest forms. I think they are very understated and very eloquent.