Tag Archives: glass

Looking through the blind spot

My interdisciplinary arts practice aims to investigate the ‘blind spot’ between nature and existence. Exploring the tension between perception and visibility, my work brings into focus the unseen, overlooked and unforeseeable.

My latest installation project, Blind Spot, Linden Innovators 1: +16 May – +22 June 2014, has been a daring attempt to map out a large three dimensional hole in space. A complex and multifaceted anti-form that is as optically impossible to describe as the space inside an atom. Blind Spot describes one of the most significant environmental discoveries of our age- the Ozone Hole. Like an iceberg looming in space, it is a dark wonder of the natural world, a landmark that cannot be found on any atlas or world map. Its appearance in our atmosphere every spring is a haunting reminder of how we close we come to pushing our environment beyond the point of regeneration. Finding a means to visually and conceptually fathom otherwise unperceivable aspects of nature, the work aims to delineate the blind spot in perception that fails to make the connection between existence and the systems within nature that support it.

Within my arts practice I reinterpret traditional craft based materials and techniques, working with new technologies to find innovative ways to respond to the themes the work addresses. Observing nature filtered through imagery from NASA’s Earth Observing Satellite Data Centre, Earth’s life support systems become visible. This expanded perspective offers a techno-romantic glimpse into the ‘blind spot’ between nature and existence.

Blind Spot is a continuation of my ongoing research. Its trajectory can be seen from my previous series, Life Support Systems, funded by the City of Melbourne Arts Project Grants. Life Support Systems uses NASA’s space suit helmet glass to create a series of three atmospheric weather maps charting shifting weather conditions in the atmosphere over Antarctica that have global implications. The maps are hung sequentially and read from left to right. The unfolding narrative of shifting weather is described in short texts below each work that evolve from history of monitoring Earth’s atmosphere to +today’s attitudes towards Climate Change: the forecast for +tomorrow. The aim of the series was to examine how the forecast for +tomorrow’s weather is reliant on our perception of our environment +today. The work does this by being fabricated from a material that was originally used as a part of the life support system of a space suit and drawing a parallel with its natural counterpart, the Ozone Layer.

Visually we first became aware of the role the Ozone Layer plays in sustaining our environment in the 1950’s Space Race’s iconographic images of the Earth. In these dazzling images Astronauts floated above the Earth tethered to spaceships, the only thing keeping them alive was the fragile life support system of their space suit. One of the most prominent features of the space suit was the luminescent dichroic glass visor that aesthetically resembled a giant mirror or ‘all seeing eye’. This lens reflected thefirst view of the Earth as a tiny fragment in an ecosystem of universal proportions from which no part is immune from the changes of its counterparts. This ignited global research to strive for an expanded awareness of our environment. From this research the Ozone Hole was discovered and +today’s current ecological conundrum revealed.

Today there is a tenuous relationship between the fragility of our environment and its ability to regenerate. The success or failure of this lies in learning how to make the concerns of these invisible aspects of our life support system on Earth visible so that the unforeseeable consequences never eventuate.

Blind spot has been funded by the Australia Council for the Arts and will be exhibited in Melbourne 2014 and Sydney 2015. It is at Linden Gallery until 22 June 2014. See jasminetargett.blogspot.com.

Tegan Empson, Idol Moments by Christine Nicholls

Tegan Empson, Idol Moments, at Gallery 2, The JamFactory, Adelaide, 13 October – 29 November 2009

Reviewed for World Sculpture News by Christine Nicholls

Tegan Empson, 2007, Brown Bunny (h 53.4 cm, x d:16.5 cm x w 15 cm) and Grey Bunny (h:50 cm, d x 14.5 cm x w 19 cm).

Tegan Empson, 2007, Brown Bunny (h 53.4 cm, x d:16.5 cm x w 15 cm) and Grey Bunny (h:50 cm, d x 14.5 cm x w 19 cm).

Tegan Empson 'Grey Bunny' 2007 (50 cm high)

Glass artist Tegan Empson’s solo exhibition, Idol Moments, on show in Adelaide’s prestigious JamFactory Contemporary Craft and Design’s Gallery 2 in late 2009, deservedly garnered a good deal of public attention. The works that Empson included in Idol Moments are hand blown, sculpted and laminated ‘creatures’. Wheel-cut and sand-etched, with a surface-coated finish, these works evince a high level of technical skill and more than a smidgeon of sheer playfulness on the part of their youthful maker.

The glass works comprising Idol Moments included finely crafted glass rabbits, robots, and cats, all of which show influences of popular culture and contemporary media. To a very limited extent these charismatic, whimsical, quasi-anthropomorphic creations exemplify the ‘kawaii factor’ insofar as, on the surface at least, they appear to be childlike, vulnerable, harmlessly droll and emotionally needy. However Tegan Empsons’s glass ‘idols’ are more than simply ‘funny bunnies’ or ‘little cuties’. To some degree these works are infused with what at one level might be described as a ‘tiny-tots aesthetic’, but the sophisticated workmanship cleverly subverts such an understanding. The works that comprise Idol Moments are definitely not cloyingly cute in the ‘Hello Kitty’ mould, but neither are they mean and crafty. Rather, they are imbued with true innocence, purity and ingenuousness – categorically more Beatrix Potter than Bugs Bunny. Equally, the exhibition’s title, in part pun, partly bathetic juxtaposition, subtly undercuts the possibility of any uni-dimensional interpretation. There are levels of understanding Empson’s body of work, extending well beyond the superficial.



Tegan Empson 'HiWired' 2008 (31cm high), hand sculpted solid glass robot with hot-joined and UV laminated components and duro cane inclusions

Importantly, the leavening influences of Empson’s irony and light-hearted, quirky humour peppered with just a dash of old-fashioned camp, combine to prod her audience into thinking about the readiness of many our contemporaries to create ‘idols’ out of inappropriate, mundane, unworthy, or commonplace figures or objects, indeed out of practically anything at all. Tegan Empson’s unassuming ‘critters’ challenge the very notion of idolatry by their gestural simplicity and their humility of bearing.

So, in titling this group of works Idol Moments, Empson gently mocks the emptiness and ridiculousness of our society’s blind worship and adoration of objects, people or animals that are, in many instances, unremarkable or ordinary. The title is also an invitation to her audience to step back, for just a little while, and reflect upon this bizarre contemporary social phenomenon.

While in Idol Moments the absurdity of contemporary society’s appetite for celebrity and commodity fetishism may be the focus of Tegan Empson’s wry sense of humour, in the end it is the artist who has the last laugh. Empson’s signature hand blown works are beautifully made and finished and for these reasons they draw well-justified admiration. In creating such elegant, extremely covetable glass artworks, which are currently in high demand, Empson is unintentionally perpetuating the very phenomenon that she critiques.

In a final ironic twist, Sir Elton John recently purchased two of Tegan Empson’s glass bunnies (‘Brown Bunny’ and ‘Grey Bunny’) from a Sydney gallery. A propos of Idol Moments, there seems to be a certain poetic justice in that.