PROJECTS

 

ESSENCE OF CLOUD

Essence of Cloud is a multi faceted project comprised mainly of Glass objects but also text, mixed media, watercolour sketches, performance as well as a possible inclusion music and animation. 

It represents a major turning point for Mark  as a long-form body of work which delves deeper into narrative and character development through detailed articulation of an imagined family history which at some points intersects with the real. Some serious ideas are imbedded in its predominantly whimsical terrain.

CLOUD ESSENCE ARTEFACTS

At rear left of the collection is my artists reinterpretation of the so called Spanish Trick Glass (the 500 year old original of which is at the Corning Museum), with a plunger inserted and fully equipped for its ‘true purpose’ as a cloud essence extractor.  I claim that it is an object of profound significance to humanity. At front left is a primitive early version of Cloud extractor circa 1530 – apparently unearthed during excavations of an old nunnery. At centre is the ancient oak box passed down to me as a mysterious family heirloom, still showing the negative space where the apparatus once sat.

Cloud Essence artefacts (Story telling through object series).
Flame-worked and sandblasted borosilicate glass, oak and mixed media (assisted by Shane Wiechnik). 

Photo: Mark Eliott

My Spanish ancestor Sergio Foggartino (known to his friends as Dario) carved the box circa 1580 to house the apparatus he had commissioned from a glassblower in Barcelona.  It was designed for extracting cloud essence from the tops of mountains; a task he undertook with enormous dedication and secrecy for his unrequited love, the nun Antia Tapia Coello. She belonged to a sect who secretly believed that human beings, when given a sniff of this subtle yet sublime substance, would be so changed as to renounce their warlike ways and return to their true vocation as caretakers of the garden of the goddess. It is thought that the depiction of the apparatus as a trick glass on the boxes lid, was a foil to disguise its true purpose during the Spanish inquisition. Later, the box was to save Sergio’s life when he clung to it - reaching the Flaggy Shore in Galway Bay, Ireland from a wrecked ship of the Spanish Armada.

The trick glass was subsequently inherited by the Scottish born naturalist Professor Hamish McFoggarty, in the nineteenth century. During repairs to the box, my great great grandmother Vanessa Winthrop (then in the professor’s employ as house keeper), discovered the plunger, a secret scroll describing its true purpose and a cloud essence vial - here seen on the boxes corner, in hidden compartments.  Thense forth the astonished professor committed himself to continuing his ancestors research but with all the diligence of a scientist. This lead to a series of strange experiments until he was struck by lightening in a hot air balloon from which he attempted to launch himself off to join an apparition of the goddess – saved only by his glassblower cousin Ferdinand. Professor McFoggarty later disappeared in a thunderstorm along with the apparatus.  All that was passed down and now remains in my possession is the empty box and a few of the remaining bottles of Cloud essence (pictured at right). These were apparently made by Ferdinand in the 1870s to Vanessa’s (his future wifes) design.  The bottles were sold at carnivals and fairgrounds to fund the construction of a floating cloud laboratory based on Count Von Zeppelins airship invention.  What the bottles actually contain is a fascinating question, however scientists warn that were the beeswax seals to be broken, the answer might be lost forever.

Cloud Essence  Bottles and Funnel

Flame-worked and sandblasted borosilicate glass, paper, beeswax.

Photo: Richard Weinstein

Cloud Essence Extractor

Flame-worked borosilicate glass, mixed media.

Photo: Richard Weintsein

APPARATUS FOR THE  EXTRACTION OF CLOUD ESSENCE 

This represents the first actual illustration of the story and depicts Dario as an apprentice alchemist, extracting cloud essence from a mountaintop. The lonely Goddess of the Clouds is seen looking down on him with a bemused expression. 

Apparatus for the Extraction of Cloud Essence (Misnamed the Trick Glass).

Flame-worked and sandblasted borosilicate glass, 2016

Courtesy of the Corning Glass Museum

ARBOREAL SERIES

 

In the context of architecture (and town planning), I see trees as the improvisational ‘other’ - needed by humans to counterbalance the order of the built environment yet not always trusted for their independent mind.  Like an unruly artist - commissioned to provide an unspecified artwork for a building, the tree is a wild thing, which can be partially but never entirely tamed, with its tendency to undermine structures with it’s roots and sprout branches in unexpected places.

 

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 on whom our lives depend, who have some kind of undeniable intelligence and character.  Instead, I sometimes commit the different sin of anthropomorphising them.

DOWN AT THE WATER TABLE

“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 our mycorrhizal fungi connected and it was on!”

 Down at the Water Table (Arboreal series).

Borosilicate glass – blown and Flame-sculpted, recycled Australian Red Cedar, water.

Dimensions 58 cm H x 69cm W x 16 cm D
Photo Richard Weinstein
 

Down at the Water Table Detail (Arboreal series).

Photo Richard Weinstein

 

A MIND OF ITS OWN

I encounter this tree each time I stay at the Glassworks Chapel where it stands sentinel (from a human viewpoint).  Since reading Peter Wohlleben’s The Hidden Life of Trees, I have come to think of it as a lone voice: a strong and independent presence.

 

Each morning I smell the intense aroma of Eucalyptus – (or is it possum piss) as I walk barefoot around the base of the tree, my mind awakening to the raw sensation of gumnuts crunching underfoot.

A Mind of It’s Own (Arboreal series)

Borosilicate glass - blown, hot sculpted and sandblasted

Photo: Wendy Dawes, Canberra Glassworks

 

HERO'S IN THE WAR FOR SPECIES SURVIVAL SERIES

In this body of work my intention is to honour both endangered creatures and the people who care for them and to do it as a kind of war hero portraiture. As well as the huge variety of struggling species, across the globe there is an unsung army, of scientists, environmentalists, retirees, farmers, children and do-gooders of all sorts wondering about in the fields, on the beaches and in the undergrowth looking after fragile organisms. They are not heros in the nationalistic sense but rare and precious people - often going about unseen in floppy hats and plain clothes fighting a daily war to protect the biodiversity of life. 

HOODED PLOVER AND JODIE DUNN

The contemporary story of the Hooded Plovers and their chicks as I know it, is a struggle for survival on beaches beset by foxes, dogs, Ravens, vehicles, gulls and heavy feet. In a miracle of cross-species empathy however, these birds loom large for a thoughtful Homo sapiens who has dedicated much of her time to their protection around Kioloa NSW. To me, Jodie Dunn belongs to a species of animal which is capable not only of the most horrendous stupidity and violence towards other living things, but also of the most indescribably beautiful insights, caring and generosity. 

Hooded Plover and Jodie Dunn
(Hero's in the war for species survival series) 2014

Flame-worked and blown borosilicate glass, beach sand.

Photo: Dylan Esguerra

Hooded Plover and Jodie Dunn Detail
(Hero's in the war for species survival series) 
2014

Photo: Dylan Esguerra

 

GLASS WIND IMPROVISATION

These pieces were made for Glass Wind Improvisations: an exhibition of my glass ‘Playable objects’; freshly-blown for live improvisations by a glass-wind ensemble which included the extraordinary musicians Jim Denley, Axel Powrie, Mimi Kind and Shota Matsumura – well-known in part for being able to coax musical sounds from unlikely objects even when they are still warm from the glass torch.

 

As a life performance of glassblowing and music-making, a reciprocal influence was hoped for between myself and the musicians. In some cases the forms were influenced by my music synaesthesia in which sound appears in colours, patterns and shapes.  I am also referencing the genre of ‘functional art glass’ or pipe-making.

 

The exhibition which was generously opened by Maureen Cahill AM at 107 Presents in Redfern and filmed by the very talented Dennis de Caires.

Glass Wind Improvisaions

Mark Eliott performing with Mimi Kind and Axel Powrie

 Photo: Rhiannon Hopley

Flute Beads (playable object series)

Flame-blown and sculpted borosilicate glass on cotton cord. 2017

Photo: Rhiannon Hopley

Alto Flute Tree (Playable Object series)

Flame-blown and sculpted borosilicate Glass 2017

Photo Dennis de Cares

Horn Improvisation #2 (Playable Object Series)

Flame-blown and sculpted borosilicate Glass 2017

Photo Dennis de Cares

Squawkophone (playable object series) 2017-18

Flame blown and sculpted borosilicate glass

 Photo: Richard Weinstein

SLOW GROWTH IMPROVISATION

 

The title of his project is intended to draw attention to the way much improvisational creativity is
gradual and incremental – resembling more the growth of coral than fast and furious Jazz
improvisation. With this approach Mark usually sets off with a theme such as a colour palette and
the kind of intuitive logic that plants seem to apply when producing branches, roots or buds. You
don’t have to follow complex planning procedures, the next branch will usually tell you where it
wants to be. This approach evolved in part from the incremental technique Mark uses in Flame-
ation which demands slow, cumulative sequences of growth a couple of milometers at a time with
subtle changes in colour and form that can be speeded up to a more dynamic sequence of
movement in the editing process. A different aesthetic is produced with forms that more slowly
rather than always seeking the fastest route from A to B.

IMPROVISATION ON RED SPIKES

Today synapses snapped.

One thing led to another:

The brain grew a thousand neurons,

the body grew a thousand nerve endings-

like coral: almost crystalline.

The heart broke into a thousand shards-

piercing the mind from the inside,

then took flight - a thousand birds on the wing: moving as one.

 

This work began as a demo during a Samsung TV screen launch then took shape at Sydney College of
the arts over months of exhilarations and frustrations and exhilarations. Next it evolved into a
crystallization of grief at my father’s passing. Over time the grief dilutes into smaller crystals, which
still hurt but become lighter - like the wings of birds.

Improvisation on Red Spikes 2007-2011

Flame blown and sculpted borosilicate glass

Photo: Richard Weinstein

JAM AT KNOT GALLERY

Jam at Knot gallery began as an improvisation to the live music of Clayton Thomas (Double base) and Dale Gorfinkle (vibraphone)– 2 gifted Australian Jazz music improvisers. It was begun during the 48 hour Live Art event at Knot Gallery, Sydney and then took on a life of its own in my studio. The branch-like form at the centre of the piece represents the fluidity of the music while the structure of networks on its surface (completed in the studio) suggests the music’s sensitivity and subtlety.

Jam at Knot Gallery 2004-2007

Flame sculpted and blown borosilicate glass.
Photo: Dennis DeCares

COLLABORATIONS WITH NATURE

 

ALL CALM ON THE SHORES OF LAKE TAUPO

Pumice stones gather in peace at the edge of Lake Taupo - place of blue calm; yet they serve also as a reminder of times of violent change, like the volcano from which they were born or the burnt, carved wood-bones of a Pa by the shores of my fathers childhood memory.

At this lake my internal water level reaches a kind of equilibrium.

All Calm on The Shore of Lake Taupo, 2018

Flame-worked borosilicate glass hot-fused onto pumice stone
Photo: Richard Weinstein

EMERGENCE: UNDERLYING STRUCTURES IN NATURE

Phill and Marks collaboration began as an unexpected pairing made by Interchange. During discussions about their different interests there appeared a common appreciation of emergent properties in living systems. This was apparent in Marks reading of Peter Wohlleben’s: The Hidden Life of Trees, in which the natural forest is seen as functioning as an integrated body.  This was consistent with Phill's interest in the human system as a global organism, with influences such as Claude Bernard, Who wrote the definitive book: The Wisdom of the Human Body, in which Bernard proposes the body is consistently adapting to meet the changing external environment.

 

Both Mark and Phil agreed that a reductive, mechanistic view of life and the natural world is problematic, as it denies the symbiotic nature of living things and focuses on difference rather than commonality. This lead to the current work which brought together two very different practices: kiln forming of soda-lime glass and flame-worked borosilicate to present the human body as a living landscape.

 

The process lead to a playful combining of forms, including Phill’s cast of model: Anita  Springintveld's torso, and a forest of Marks abstracted glass trees crowned in pumice stones, which Phill brought over from New Zealand’s Brooklyn Beach. Pumice is one of the only materials which Mark has discovered can be hot-fused to borosilicate glass. A root mass is presented within the figurative form to symbolise the dynamic system of fungal networks used by forests for communication and self-regulation.

Emergence: Underlying Structures in Nature, 2018

Flame-worked borosilicate glass hot-fused onto pumice stone, Kiln-formed float glass.

 

Photo: Richard Weinstein


 

 
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