Thursday, 14 August 2014

No More Running Amok


In 1994, Australian glass visionary Maureen Cahill and coal industry executive Andy Plummer teamed up to establish the (then) Resource Finance Corporation or RFC Glass Prize. It involved an annual monetary prize for a work of glass made by an artist in Australia or New Zealand, with the winning piece being acquired for the Ranamok (formerly RFC) Collection. RFC morphed into Whitehaven Coal, Eureka Corporation and Excel Corporation, and the prize morphed in the Ranamok Prize.

The first exhibition was held at the Earth Exchange Museum in Sydney in 1995 and now, in 2014, the 20th Exhibition, being held at the Canberra Glassworks before travelling to Sydney and Brisbane, has been announced to be the last. The Ranamok collection of works by the winners will be donated to the Australian National Gallery in Canberra, which will make it accessible on an ongoing basis.

Photo: Kathryn Wightman
The Ranamok Prize has provided an opportunity for a veritable Who's Who of Australian and New Zealand glass artists to show their skills and compete for the prize. Some of the entrants have been quite new to glass, keen to see how their work stands up in that environment, while Ranamok has also attracted entries from some of the leading glass artists of both countries.

The 2014 Ranamok Prize has been awarded to Kathryn Wightman, who teaches at the Glass School in Whanganui. Dr Wightman's 2011 PhD from the University of Sunderland explored the integration of glassmaking and printmaking, with the development of a number of creative glassmaking processes inspired by printmaking processes, especially related to textiles. Warmest congratulations, Kathryn.

Photo: Kathryn Wightman Facebook
 Kathryn's prize-winning work is a truly remarkable three metre long carpet runner in glass. Kathryn screen-printed coloured glass powders to create a textured carpet pattern. Then, as photos on her Facebook page show, she walked barefoot along the carpet, leaving footprints in the 'sand' of the glass colours. The 'carpet' was then fused in the kiln to create the resulting glass masterpiece.

Photo: Kathryn Wightman Facebook


The only New Zealand finalist in the first RFC Prize in 1995 was Kirsten Sach of Glen Eden. In 1992 Kirsten was a student at Carrington Polytechnic, and I was pleased to buy this small cast glass 'Lotus Cup'  from an exhibition at 'The Pumphouse' in Takapuna that year. Kirsten's Ranamok entry in 1995 was a much more developed work  - you can see it on the very fine and profusely illustrated Ranamok website, which features the work of all the Finalists and the Prize winners.

New Zealand winners at Ranamok have been Emma Camden (1999), David Murray (2003) Evelyn Dunstan (2007), Lisa Walsh (2009), Sue Hawker (2010) and now Kathryn Wightman. I'm delighted that my own collection includes works by all of these except Lisa (must do something about that, Lisa!) even if they are not always quite as grand as the winning pieces. New Zealand Ranamok finalists represented in my collection include Ruth Allen, Claudia Borella, Lee Brogan, Dominic Burrell, Christine Cathie, Mike Crawford, Keith Grinter, Robyn Irwin, Nicole Lucas, Keely McGlynn, Lyndsay Patterson, Lou Pendergrast-Matheson, Rachel Ravenscroft, Carmen Simmonds, Greg Smith, Hoana Stachl.  I even have works by Australian finalists Ben Edols and Michael Larwood in my small non-NZ collection. There have been other NZ finalists, of course, but not represented in my collection - I guess I've just developed a shopping list! 

But I conclude by showing my very own Wightman. You could say I was an 'early adopter' of Kathryn's work in New Zealand. She arrived to take up a position as tutor at the Glass School in Whanganui in May of 2012, and gave a presentation at the NZSAG conference Generate in Whanganui in October 2012, talking about her work printing and creating 'textiles' in glass. I found this fascinating, and struggled to understand just how she did it (I still do, rather). In the associated exhibition of work for sale, Kathryn showed three platters which were some of the last she had made in Sunderland before coming out to New Zealand; I was delighted to be able to buy one of those.

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