The extraordinary glass master Klaus Moje presents a new series of work including his renowned ‘Ballet Russe’ series. Considered the founding father of contemporary glass in Australia, and acknowledged as a Living Treasure: Master of Australian Craft, Klaus has taught and influenced glass artists from Australia and internationally. His pattern, colour and assemblage continue to inspire, with this series of work no exception. Don’t miss this one if you want to see the best that Australian glass has to offer.
Over the years artists, and writers, learn more about themselves, what they do and what they mean. Once I wrote at length, and perhaps eloquently, about Klaus Moje’s glass forms as intricate constructions of colour and geometry. But it was Moje’s passing reference a few days ago to his appreciation of particular art movements in the early 20th century that offered yet another understanding of his work. Moje spoke of his empathy with the Ballet Russe, and with the principles developed within the Bauhaus workshops. He spoke of the expressive potential created when dance, theatre, design and painting are explored as one process, and the way this was further explored by early modernist painters.
The brilliance of the Ballet Russe in the 1920s and 30s drew on an audacious disregard for traditional boundaries: set design, abstract painting, poetry, costume design, contemporary music and modern dance were combined as the art of performance. The Ballet reveled in the creative tensions between the physical discipline of choreography, and the abstract expression of design, gesture, form and colour. Its experiments attracted modernist painters such as Picasso and Braque, and its poetic expression and dream like abstraction shared much with the surrealist works of de Chirico and Miro. In Germany modernist philosophies of art, design and performance were developing in the Bauhaus schools, where the theatre workshops of Lothar Schreyer and Oskar Schlemmer, and their painter colleagues including Kandinsky, were also combining modern performance and art. These artistic movements, whose complex influences coil like twisted rope throughout subsequent decades of the century, offer some wonderful insights into Moje’s work and inspiration.
The Ballet, and the Bauhaus, delighted in exploiting the creative surprise generated when traditionally separate ideas or forms, such as function and abstraction, or music and painting, poetry and art, discipline and free gesture, come together. Moje’s work is rich with such energy. The extremely disciplined and demanding technical discipline of kiln forming glass is also a vehicle for creating sweeping free gestures of colour and line. The delicate choreography of tiny glass fragments, in all their exquisite intricate beauty, combine to form one large imposing architectural form. The wall pieces play with the ambiguity between plane and volume, two dimensions and three. The ‘roll ups’ occupy an ambiguous space between mosaic, drawing, plane and sculpture. The process of glass making, when it involves team collaboration orchestrated step by step in an elaborate dance, questions the canon of individual artistic expression, and recalls the disciplines of performance or dance. The constraints of working with the demanding chemistry of glass are resolved into a fluid palette of light and colour. The beautiful minimalism of geometry combines with the sumptuous delight of rich mosaic.
There are so many complex tensions and conversations within Moje’s work. The effort to explore them in depth is amply rewarded. On the other hand, it is also possible to just sit back and enjoy the performance.
Nola Anderson, Canberra, September 2010.