Robert was born in Yarram, a rural town in Victoria in Australia’s south. He commenced his artistic career studying ceramics. Whilst studying for his final year he met visiting glass artist, Nick Mount, who had recently established a studio within Monash University.
The dynamic process of glass blowing immediately captivated Robert. Not only was the visual splendour deeply pleasing, he relished the choreography in glass blowing, and particularly the immediacy and risk that the material demanded. Robert worked with Mount in those heady, pioneering days and carries with him many of the lessons he learned from Nick.
Rob went on to complete a Masters Degree in Glass at the California State University and gained invaluable experience exhibiting, visiting private glass studios and learning from the burgeoning studio glass movement in the USA.
Robert’s work is featured in galleries around Australia and the world; in prominent public and private collections including the new Parliament House in Canberra, the Powerhouse Museum in Sydney and the private collections of President Bill Clinton and Sir Elton John among others.
In his own words:
“I must preface my comments with a confession, I much prefer for my work to speak for itself. I find it hard to stand outside and look back at my work, much less comment on it. Nonetheless, here goes…
My work is characterised by strong, bold lines and shapes. I love classical proportions and purity of form,which continues to lead me on a relentless pursuit of perfection. There is a strong sculptural element in a lot of my work and I often layer the work with surface decoration, using methods that I have developed over the years.
There is tension in my work, either resolved or left tantalisingly open. A example might be a classical vase with strong sharp lines and almost industrial colouring interrupted by a bold, bright organic slash, or a finely finished parabolic form with a cracked and broken lip, jagged shards decorating the surface. The ephemeral fragility of glass contrasted with the machine like hardness of steel. Tall conical forms leaning perilously, gourd shaped pieces with very long fine necks emerging from a compact, solid base”.
The work probably reflects the contrasting impulses within me. I love technical precision in my work while at the same time needing to incorporate a playful, creative element. I enjoy making beautiful objects but I am not afraid to create pieces that evoke emotions more complex than just aesthetic appreciation.
My inspiration comes from numerous places including historical glassmaking practices and formal sculptural dialogue. Additionally, I am influenced heavily by my homeland. I come from rural Victoria (a state in southern Australia), dairy country near the ocean and I currently work in Manly, five minutes from the Pacific ocean.
The bold beauty and the sheer expanse of the Australian landscape delight and inspire me and I know that it seeps through my pieces, both implicitly and explicitly. There is also an honesty and rugged openness about the Australian people, a fierce independence, generosity and integrity that I admire and which I would like to think is expressed in the work I produce.
I love to play and explore, something that I think my art and work benefits greatly from. It is often a juggling act, matching available resources with the scope of my creative urges. Exhibitions are excellent because I am forced out of my standard routine to strive for something new that builds on my previous work.
Whilst I love the challenge of technical precision that blowing glass entails, I also need to play and explore. I am restless and always looking for a new way of viewing; this is reflected in the diverse nature of my work.
I get great satisfaction from the whole process of bringing a piece in to the world. I enjoy taking a glass-work from the point at which it is a mere concept all the way through a very demanding and complex journey to the point at which it sits in it¹s own space in the gallery, thence to someone¹s home, hotel lobby or collection.
Hand-blown glass is incredibly special. Each piece is unique, the result of an extraordinarily choreographed dance between the artist and the molten glass at the other end of the blowpipe.
It is a wonderful, mysterious process coloured by drama, danger and dreams. The creation of each glass piece is extremely demanding and very physical, needing a high level of technical expertise. It also requires a ‘feel’ for the material that only comes from years of experience. There is risk and uncertainty inherent in the creation of every artwork that is only resolved when the glass is cooled and the piece finished.
Each piece of hand-blown glass represents an investment of years, of deeply rooted hopes and dreams, and a huge amount of skill. Each piece of glass is an unrepeatable moment in frozen time shaped into a gorgeous body of light, weight and colour.
In 1991 he established his own studio, Denizen Glass Design in the beachside suburb of Manly where he produces a range of hand-blown glass from large, one-off sculptural pieces through to smaller production work.
During his time at Manly, he has provided a launching point and working space for many of Australia’s well known glass artists, including Ben Edols, Kathy Elliott, Matthew Curtis, Richard Whitely and Bettina Visentin.
He is a pioneer of studio glass in Australia and continues to push the boundaries, creating unique and arresting glass pieces. View Robert’s CV.