Simon Maberley has been a significant player in the Canberra glass scene for many years now, but his recent projects are revealing him to be an auspicious all-rounder who punches well above his weight.
Unlike many of his contemporaries, Maberley’s work does not obsess over its materiality. Here, glass is the means to an end, not the end in itself. Maberley is an artist with a lot to say, the glass being just one way to say it. The recent exhibition New Works at ANCA asserts his confidence of concept and technical ability.
An artist who tackles the larger issues, Maberley is not self-referential but certainly self-reflective, and unafraid of treading a well-worn path. In this instance, Maberley makes an uncomfortable meditation upon our implication in the deconstruction of the natural world, and to do so, he reaches for that most loaded and undeniable of symbols – the human skull.
Much has been said of skulls in art over recent years. There have been mutterings about their overuse and accusations of blind trend following, perhaps culminating with Hirst’s diamond-crusted number, grotesque on many levels. Maberley is self-assured enough to ignore the naysayers and use this gravitous form in the grand tradition of Vanitas. Rather than toying with the cryptic Maberley cuts to the chase, pairing the skull with a petrol pump, with a mirror, or a gnarled and blackened tree branch. The artist’s disdain for the greed, corruption and carelessness of modern society is plain to see. This is art with a conscience, and it makes no apologies.
So often environmental art seems to deliver only on message OR artistic appeal – very rarely both. It was surprising therefore to find an exhibition so grounded in passionate beliefs where the artwork is also able to hold its own above and beyond its weighty themes. Amongst the masses of flippant and ironic art (for which there is also time) it is refreshing to visit an exhibition and be humbled, be made to think.
‘Simon Maberley – New Works’ finished at ANCA on the 17th of July, but keep an eye out for more from the artist at Craft ACT later this year.