Inside the Collection

New Giles Bettison commission for the Powerhouse Museum

Glass vessel on a plinth that gives me appearance of fine lace
Giles Bettison’s ‘Lace 2010’ glass vessel

With the continuing generous support of ADFAS, Ku-ring-gai branch, the Powerhouse Museum has recently acquired what is undoubtedly the most striking glass vessel from Giles Bettison’s ‘Lace’ series. Titled Lace 2010, the vessel was commissioned by the Museum in late 2009 following his exhibition ‘Connecting Journeys: Giles Bettison’ held at Sabbia Gallery in Sydney. Based in Adelaide, Bettison is one of the leading studio glass artists in Australia. Lace 2010 is a visually striking example of Bettison’s mastery in his contemporary interpretation of the traditional Venetian technique of murrini (cut glass canes) combined with the lesser known lace-making traditions of the neighbouring Venetian island of Burano.

What sets this particular vessel apart from earlier pieces in the ‘Lace’ series is its dramatic fusion of various murrini styles and arrangements. The lower third of the vessel is composed of bands of four petalled flowers below a more open pattern of bursting stars and stylised Venetian architectural forms and intersected by a densely patterned L-shape, reminiscent of a crocheted textile. The top part of the vessel consists of a floating composition of larger round lace rosettes composed of white murrini. Unlike earlier vessels, this example is also larger (approximate dimensions are H. 280mm W. 310mm D. 40mm), more experimental with its oblique, free-standing form and more elaborate with its free patterning.

Close up photograph of glass vessel on a plinth that gives me appearance of fine lace
Detail of Giles Bettison’s ‘Lace 2010’ glass vessel

It is fitting that the Powerhouse Museum acquires a piece from Bettison’s ‘Lace’ series at the same time as judging takes place for the Museum’s International Lace Award. Approximately 140 works from this award in many new and surprising media will be showcased in a major temporary exhibition during Sydney Design 2011. To complement these works, it is intended Lace 2010 will also feature as a stand-alone signature piece from the Museum’s permanent collection, representing contemporary notions of blown glass and lace and its innovative application.

Of his ‘Lace’ series, Bettison says, “It was partly instinct to pursue the lace-glass connection, but it was also built on my interest in the cross-pollination of ideas between different people living in the same region and involved in small manufacturing and craft practices. Looking at similarities of patterning, it is clear that there has been a vital exchange of ideas between all the people living in the Venice lagoon for centuries.”

Close up lower view of photograph of glass vessel on a plinth that gives me appearance of fine lace
Detail of Giles Bettison’s ‘Lace 2010’ glass vessel

Lace 2010 is the first and only example of Bettison’s ‘Lace’ series to enter a public collection and will complement other examples of his smaller and earlier work already in the Powerhouse Museum’s holdings. The Chairman of ADFAS Ku-ring-gai, Lawrence West, worked closely with Powerhouse curator Eva Czernis-Ryl on selecting the artist and preparing the brief and remained closely involved throughout the process. The result of this year’s ADFAS – Powerhouse collaboration is an outstanding new addition to the Powerhouse’s renowned collection of contemporary studio glass. The Museum would like to sincerely thank the committee and all members of ADFAS Ku-ring-gai for your generosity and foresight in helping the Museum to build an inspiring glass collection for the study and enjoyment of present and future generations.

This article was first published in the newsletter of the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Society – Ku-ring-gai branch (October – December, 2010).

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