Elisabeth Malone, London&Perth

 

We’re undertaking a little journey around glass making and the love for glass. A couple of weeks ago we told you about the story of a very young passioned, the avid 25 years old traveler, Marcantonio Brandolini d’Adda, who is now a glass design entrepreneur. 

This week we tell you a story of another incredible worlds inventor – Elizabeth Malone.

She is neither an artist nor a glass blower. She is a  lawyer living in London but born in Western Australia where she  is a patron of the local State Art  Gallery.  

Fond of the art of glass making she first experienced in Venice, she  established, throughout the Art Gallery of Western Australia,  from  2003 a glass prize to bring Australian glass makers to prominence within Australia and  in the world scene.

The Tom Malone Prize is the most significant Australian glass  prize awarded to new works of glass in any form, including mixed medias. Initiated by Elizabeth Malone in memory  of her late husband Tom, the 2018 entries are now open (until October 2017). 

The story of Elizabeth will carry you very far in daydreaming…

 

Your life in a few lines starting from the childhood

I was born and grew up, went to school and trained in Perth, Western Australia.

We were a relatively large family (five children) and  very relaxed, a  classic Australian upbringing. Quite outdoorsy in Perth. It was then  a small and quiet  city…

 

Not anymore

It’s expanded, it has became…Oh, Western Australia is one third of Australia so it is an immense area. It has huge primary production, over recent years it has became  wealthy and successful in the mining industry by supplying other countries. Personally my regret is we’ve concentrated  on primary production (historically on wheat and wool and more recently mining).

But we tend to export what we produce and the secondary and tertiary production is elsewhere. This has  limited what happens in Australia or in Western Australia at least.

Yes, Perth is a much busier town now…but it’s  remote and I think is described as the most remote city in the world. It is now  expanding in population and is more lively and diverse.

 

It is also the closest point to leave from Australia….

If you’re heading to Europe (or to South East Asia) of course it is!

It’s across the Indian Ocean to Africa also, even if the movement towards the  east coast of Africa is more limited, while there is an expansion of travel throughout  Asia and to India.  If you’re heading West, it’s the departing point.

 

Australia is  not anymore a country which has just a British Commonwealth bond?

I agree, it has moved on from that connection  which existed historically  because we were settled and populated by the British. In fact,  other non indigenous nationalities “discovered” Australia prior to the British but found nothing to interest them and so the British settled and we were a British colony. Because of that history, there was a time when we looked to Britain as our ‘homeland’.

The reality is that we are placed in South East Asia and this is our vocation.

 

Your vocation is shared between the world of justice and law and the world of the glass. You’re a lawyer by trade but your passion is also something else and your life is within the glass making. Can you tell us a little more about that?

My life hasn’t been in glass really however it became involved in glass in the last 15 years, for a specific purpose at the time when the Prize  started.

My husband and I had visited Venice several times on holiday and we had also stayed here for a period – I think in one occasion for three months.

And so we had come to learn about the Venetian style of glass making; of course it’s so magnificent. Then my husband  died and I thought of establishing something in his name within Australia, to celebrate his life.  At the time the Australian glass community was expanding. There was a relatively small band of people already intrigued who were very enthusiastic about this form of art, acquiring influences from very different sources.

There was the Venetian style of glass making which came really via Richard Marquis, so via America unusually. He was visiting Australia at the time and students in the art and craft schools, then expanding in the universities, became interested in that style of glass making.

There was the great Klaus Moje from Germany who come to Australia and was the founding head of the School of Art Glass at the Australian National University in Canberra who was another massive  influence with kilnformed glass (glass fused or formed in a kiln).

Although these influences were significant and the glass making community was expanding within

Western Australia, being the other side of our vast continent, did not have  much in common with the mentioned practices. The art  schools involved with glass making in Western Australia  had problems with funding and all such  typical problems.

So when establishing the glass prize it seemed to me the right time to make a change and to  introduce more contemporary glass to Perth.

The Art Gallery of Western Australia  has a good historical glass collection from the days of our settlement. Of course in terms of  historic glass from Italy or elsewhere it is not so “historical” but for us it is very valuable.

Then the late Dr Robert Bell there was the curator of craft and Design at the Art Gallery of Western Australia in the 80s whose interest was Scandinavian glass and so he built up a significant collection of Scandinavian midcentury glass.

The intention behind the Tom Malone Prize  was to have a method of expanding the glass collection at AGWA which provided a snapshot of what is happening in contemporary glass in Australia now. To provide a sort of capsule collection for the visitors to the gallery illustrating ‘this is how our glass making is developing in period’.

2003 was the first year of the prize.

It has continued annually since then  and this year is the fifteenth: the award is  named after my late husband Tom Malone. Initially the aim was to mark and to celebrate his life but it is now moved on to celebrating what is happening in glass art in Australia. We are open to all methods of glass making  and  the prize is opened to any glass maker working within Australia whether the work is  functional or  not  or comprise  mixed media provided a component includes  glass.

The art gallery makes a shortlist from the entries. All we seek is a photographic representation of the work, a short written piece about the inspiration for the work or whatever the artist seeks to describe..

Any work shortlisted is capable of winning and the Tom Malone Prize is an acquisitive award, so the winning work goes into the state owned collection at AGWA. Any submitted work is required  to be created in the year immediately preceding  the award of the  prize.

 

It is therefore very valuable for them

The prize  has a  value added, yes, for the winning artist to be represented in a public state collection in addition to the monetary prize.

Once the gallery has made  the shortlisted selection, we have a panel of judges to declare the wining finalist. Over the initial ten years of the prize , our practice was that in alternate years the  judges would travel around Australia to visit  the artists’ studios  to see the artwork in competition but also other works (past and current).

It also gave the opportunity to Robert Cook the curator of Contemporary Design at AGWA  and its director Stefano Carboni to meet the community of glass makers throughout Australia. This was particularly valuable at the time particularly when Western Australia is quite distant and the larger glass community tends to be in other parts of our country,

It opened up a lot of connections for the gallery and in turn connected the artists and publicized their  work within the general community.

After the first ten years of the prize it  seemed ‘to have reached the place’ so we modified the format. Now when the shortlist is closed, there is an exhibition of the selected pieces in the Art Gallery of Western Australia. It is in all forms: blown, fused, whatever…

It gives the opportunity  to the people of Western Australia and all visitors to AGWA  to experience and investigate (if they wish) more about glass design and simply enjoy an exhibition of beautiful glass art.

 

Do you also include jewelry design in glass?

Of course! There has been a particular artist, Blanche Tilden, who has been shortlisted a couple of times. She makes such beautiful work!

We have a broad spectrum of all  methods of glass making..

One of the winning works includes  a video installation.

At the time the winning artist Deirdre Feeney was making models of  Art Deco styled buildings, mainly cinemas, from Australia and incorporating video projections onto the facades (she points to an image of such a building with the video projection and including a vibrant  glass chair in the 15th year Tom Malone catalogue which was on our table in a stunningly furnished Venetian penthouse, beside a delicious Sacher tarte and a French coffee kindly offered by Nathalie, her sister, and mother of our new photographer Ugo Del Corso, who made the link for this interview)

 

What did attract you to glass was your late husband’s passion or something else? Are you collecting also?

At the time we were not collecting glass but we simply found something beautiful and we captivated by the experience of the glass making here in Venice.

I am not an artist myself and I am more fond of modern rather than some entirely cutting edge  contemporary art.

 

What about you as a reader? As a lawyer you must have had and have to read a lot, but when it comes to passion…which is your favorite reading and your tastes in reading? Which is the secret place where to hide and seek for slowness?

I enjoy Australian authors like Tim Winton, Robert Drewe.  I am required to read a lot with my  work, forever reading both on my computer screen but also huge quantities of papers. Generally I want something lighter and entertaining to read, both fiction and non-fiction when it comes to spare time!

Given that I live and work in London now a long time, it is city hard to find a place to get slower sometimes. I may go out of London, it means  a little more planning to get out there!

I have two secret places.

One place is Dungeness, on the England South coast. It’s quite a bizarre area. It’s rocky, not very pleasing and a little abandoned and bleak. It’s not pretty but has an unusual surreal attractiveness.

The other is the Henry Moore Foundation at Perry Green, I love the idea of just wandering around. It has been always wonderful.

 

We’ve recently interviewed on Slow Words Ms Lisa Le Feuvre the Henry Moore Head of the Sculpture Department….What about the music with you now?

I am a woman of my period, you see…what I listen to is quite sadly classified now as ‘easy listening’…that sort of 60ies and 70ies period.

My favourite  singer? Of course he is coming from pop music of the time.  I am not informed of classical music. It’s probably Joe Cocker!

 

If it is possible to know, where do you see yourself in ten years given that there is the ‘Brexit’ on your door…? Will you still be thinking of England as your favourite place to be?

I’m always rethinking that, not just because of Brexit. I have always been divided between Australia and England, let’s say London really. I suspect I will settle back in Australia. It’s very easy living in Australia, it’s less pressurized, less overwhelming (which is the appeal of London; there is so much happening there! And so much is available! But, at the same time, it is also good to get out of there).

I suppose Australia is my homeland, it is where I am accustomed, it’s  where I have friends and family…It has a draw, but it has also an easy living. I anticipate that I will return there.

 

What did you learn from life, the last and hardest question?

I must have to think a bit on that….

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