Prize for glass art that tricks the eyes

Liz HobdayAAP
Prize-winning glass artist Tim Edwards says he's interested in perception and deception.
Camera IconPrize-winning glass artist Tim Edwards says he's interested in perception and deception. Credit: AAP

Artist Tim Edwards has won the prestigious Tom Malone prize for Australian glass art with a work that plays tricks with the viewer's eye.

The winning work, titled Ellipse #8, is a luminous blue form about 45cm tall, and from some angles it's impossible to tell whether the glass is two or three dimensional.

"I'm interested in perception, deception, and that area between 2D and 3D. Someone coined the term two and a half dimensional, which I like," the artist told AAP.

It took about two hours to blow the piece with the help of assistants at the furnaces in Adelaide's JamFactory.

Mr Edwards then spent another 35 hours in his home studio grinding perfect ovals out of the glass using high end German stone and diamond tools.

The glass doesn't break during this process, he explained, because it's cooled with water, and glass is tougher than one might expect.

"It's brittle, but it's actually very, very strong... it's solid enough that you're not going to break it," he said.

Based in South Australia, Mr Edwards began as a ceramicist before switching to glass and a career that has taken him all over the world, including a commission at the Corning Museum of Glass in the US.

He worries that funding cuts have left university glass art training in a depressing state, but said the JamFactory studio is "going gangbusters", and the skills developed there have been vital for Australian glass art.

Professional-level glass in Australia is strong, according to Mr Edwards, with sales expanding well beyond craft-based galleries.

He believes interest in glass blowing from prominent contemporary artists such as Patricia Piccinini and Tony Albert will lead to more attention for the medium.

"We're in a good place and I think we're going to hit a really good direction in the next five to 10 years," he said.

For the 20th anniversary of the $15,000 acquisitive prize, the 15 finalist pieces are on display alongside winning works from the previous 19 years.

These include art from the likes of Tom Moore, Jessica Loughlin, Nick Mount and Gabriella Bisetto.

The pieces are on show at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in Perth from Friday until July 31.

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