Reviewed by Patricia Simms-Reeve
Tom Moore, the young Australian artist in glass, has created creatures that awe and astonish as well as amuse with their quirky playfulness. His skill is obvious and the complexity of his works makes him one of the most outstanding talents working in the medium today.
Glass is produced at temperatures around 2,000 degrees Celsius. Silica melts and this extremely hot liquid form of sand is then coloured and melded to such brilliant forms as this book, Tom Moore: Abundant Wonder, illustrates so beautifully.
Working in these temperatures produces a massive carbon footprint. Just one hour’s work results in 100 kgs of CO2. Being conscious of this, Tom Moore has purchased carbon offsets to equate with nine years work…
Edward Lear, who celebrated nonsense in his drawings, is clearly an influence on Tom Moore’s work. Both Lear, himself an exquisite painter of parrots and landscapes, and Moore ‘share a profound fondness between living creatures, a happy blurring of the boundary between human and natural’.
This delightful book displays copious examples of his work and is enhanced by splendid insights in the commentaries by three experts in the field. Lisa Slade, Mark Thomson and Adrian Franklin add considerably to the appreciation of the figures. Their insights and background historical knowledge are an invaluable addition.
Adjectives abound in describing the beings Moore has created. Whimsical is the most comprehensive. Simultaneously, they can be disarming, witty, capricious. Mark Thomson states, “It’s hard to overstate the virtuosic mastery, fiendish complexity and multiplicity of allusions, technically, historically, and culturally in Tom Moore’s work”. This captures the essence of the range of small masterpieces in the book.
Galleries in Australia have recognised his genius and some in the USA. The rest of the world will, without doubt, soon become bewitched by the unique charm of his creations.
Glass has been made for 500 years or more. It was raised from the merely utilitarian to an art form in places like Murano, Italy. Modern artists working the medium are constantly experimenting and extending its possibilities. Moore concedes that, although he is a master of the medium, he sometimes makes attempts that are too difficult. There are pages depicting him at work with his team of highly skilled glass artists, poised and ready to synchronise actions in this delicate, exacting and sometimes disastrous process. Timing is crucial.
One of the works, “My Inner Pickle, Pickled Giraffe and Prehistoric Restraint”, (2014) showing a group of imaginary beings with multiple beady eyes, has a mischievous, cheeky air. They are set in an aquarium with long green fronds – deceptively simple- yet the cane working is intricate.
Every page is delightfully thought provoking. One of the most fascinating has an amazing inverted view of Venice in the background. Two large birds are upside down in the foreground, with heads in the clouds. Both birds are on perches which are delicate hammers – irony? Fragility?
“Self Portrait with Radically Amphibious Armour” shows a green Tom Moore inside a clear glass bird with wings that resemble fins.
Inspired by the natural world, he is constantly alert to ideas. Once, while on a three-month grant in Japan, he saw a truck almost completely overgrown by plants. To Tom, it was ‘the triumph of Nature over Industry’, and he used this concept in many of his future works.
Tom Moore:Abundant Wonder, as the title suggests, is a source of countless pleasures. It is a beautiful book, full of surprises and, indeed, amazement at the range and possibilities of the human imagination. It is a book to treasure and return to again and again.
Three years ago, I visited the Jam Factory in Adelaide. Watching the glass blowers at work, little did I dream that I would one day hold a collection of some of its brilliant output.
Tom Moore: Abundant Wonder
by Lisa Slade, Mark Thomson, Adrian Franklin, Tom Moore