Photo Credits: The Crystal Chain Gang: Jim Dennison and Leanne Williams, Fancy Fools Flight, 2011. Courtesy of the artists. Photograph: installation view at Objectspace, 2012.
As I stood in the gallery entrance, I found myself rather excited by the glass mirage that greeted me, including an impressive chandelier with crystals adorned with glass wings and a central column of cast-glass chicken feet. Supported by a funding grant from Creative New Zealand, this new body of work not only blurs the boundaries of craft, art and design, it challenges those boundaries too.
Since 2004, Jim Dennison and Leanne Williams have worked collaboratively as the The Crystal Chain Gang, supported by a dedicated crew of between two and three studio assistants who have been vital in bringing this labour-intensive and heavy cast glass work to fruition. Taking the overlooked utilitarian bottle form as its starting point, the exhibition features a group of bottles based on the form of cut-glass decanters often used to house alcoholic spirits - but could be seen to hold spirits of a different kind. The Crystal Chain Gang top these with stoppers that feature a line up of guardian characters that are drawn from a rich visual memory bank, both real and imagined.
Sourcing inspiration from second-hand shop finds and images from books, the pair literally re-mould these overlooked objects into new forms, punk them up, subvert them and make them foolish and heroic all at once. They state, “The message is not in the bottle but it is the bottle itself... our intention is to stir memory and re-contextualise the bottle to try and engage the viewer in new and unexpected ways”.
Dennison and Williams draw inspiration from a wide range of areas, including the history of glass-making abroad, from which they cite René Lalique and the elaborate glass furnishings created for Eastern palaces during the nineteenth century as influences. Closer to home, New Zealand colonial history and objects and imagery sourced from second-hand shops are all brought together.
Also engaging is the accompanying 30 page exhibition publication made possible with support from Creative New Zealand. With stunning colour photos, an introduction by the original curator Greg Donson, and essays by Greg Donson and Bronwyn Lloyd it is a great read. Copies can be purchased direct from Objectspace for $15.
The exhibition continues at Objectspace until Saturday 9 June.