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‘I think in glass – that’s the way I see things’

SA Makers

VIDEO: 2018 SALA feature artist Clare Belfrage loves the drama and dynamism of working with hot glass, but the creative inspiration for her beautiful pieces comes from the  gentle rhythms and patterns of nature.

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“I’m really interested in rhythm; rhythms, I think, describe life, the living of life.

“I’ve never been particularly interested in creating a glass leaf or a glass shell – what I’ve tried to put deep into a piece is a sense of place. It might be reflective of looking up through a canopy, or looking below your feet at detritus underfoot.”

Belfrage is offering insight into the artistic process behind her delicate glass creations, which will be exhibited at both the JamFactory and the Art Gallery of South Australia during this year’s South Australian Living Artists (SALA) festival.

As the SALA feature artist, her work appears on the festival program cover and she is also being celebrated in the 2018 monograph published by Wakefield Press.

It is the latest in a long list of honours for the internationally recognised Belfrage, who fell in love with glass firing when she was studying ceramic design at university.

“I think that it’s very dramatic,” she tells InDaily.

“You’re working with a material in its fluid/molten state and that’s kind of an incredible experience.”

While the heated glass is malleable, it cools down quickly, making firing a “dynamic, active process”.

“The other thing that had a lot of appeal is that you work in teams – you always work with an assistant and now I work with teams of up to four or five people.

“I love that working together and it requires every single person to be working on it for it be successful… there’s a real sense of satisfaction in that.”

While some artists experiment with different materials and media throughout their careers, Belfrage has been “pretty monogamous when it comes to glass”.

In a video about her practice made by Adelaide photographer and filmmaker Randy Larcombe (view below), she describes herself as thinking in glass.

“That’s kind of the way I see things and feel things when I’m in that creative process, which is sort of subtly all the time.”

Belfrage regularly exhibits and sells her work in galleries in Australia and overseas. She has also lectured extensively and has been involved with a range of arts organisations; for several years, before returning to Adelaide in 2014, she was creative director of Canberra Glassworks.

Not surprisingly, given her views on the importance of staying connected to nature and its influence on her art, Belfrage also likes to spend time in the outdoors and is a keen gardener, with her interest in textures and rhythms reflected in her plant choice.

Morialta Conservation Park and Flinders Ranges are among her favourite South Australian landscapes.

“I have a real love for that landscape,” she says of the Flinders. “It was kind of a harsh landscape for me to find at first but there’s something about sitting quietly in that place.

“I feel that I really look at the Australian landscapes, but I’m not a purist – it’s just that that’s my place and it’s what I feel most connected to… even when I’m in big cities I always love to go to botanic gardens. I find it incredibly revitalising.”

Belfrage has had a long association with Adelaide’s JamFactory, where her SALA exhibition A Measure of Time will see her show around 25 mostly new pieces after what she describes as a “fantastic, intensive period of making”.

It’s great for people to see the translation of ideas into objects and artworks

She is also taking part in a series of live glassblowing sessions (see the schedule here) at JamFactory throughout August.

“I love that because when you really get into the glass blowing process you almost forget people are there because it’s so intense and it requires your whole focus,” she says, adding that she has always worked in public studios.

“The educator in me loves it when people watch and get excited. I think it’s great for people to see the translation of ideas into objects and artworks.”

The Art Gallery of SA is also showing 11 glass sculptures by Belfrage, which span 15 years of her practice and have been acquired as part of the gallery’s collection. Some of pieces are from her SALA show last year at the David Roche Foundation House Museum.

Although she already has a strong profile as an artist, Belfrage believes that being named as the SALA featured artist will create new opportunities.

“It just feels like an incredible honour – I just think SALA is an amazing festival.

“I love how it really calls it, and talks about living artists … that celebration of South Australian living artists. And when you’re the featured artist it feels like an incredible acknowledgement of my work over 30 years.”

The 2018 SALA Festival runs from August 1-31 and will see more than 900 artists exhibit work at hundreds of venues across the state. More detail on Clare Belfrage’s exhibitions can be found here. She is also taking part in SALA Artists Present at Cinematique, at the Mercury Cinema, where artists will introduce and talk about films that have influenced their practice

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