Exhibition: Watching Glass Grow

Date posted: 09 February 2016

Date: 28 February to 29 May, 2016
Time: 10am to 4pm, Wednesday to Sunday
Where: Santos Museum of Economic Botany, Adelaide Botanic Garden, North Terrace (download a map)
Cost: Free
Opening afternoon: Sunday 28 February, 4pm to 6:30pm, free - all welcome (official proceedings start at 5pm, but a workshop will be held on the lawns in front of the Museum at 4pm, where you can build your own terrarium to see glass grow plants. You can even bring along a toy truck, car, or anything that can be repurposed to create a Tom Moore-esque planter).

Internationally renowned Adelaide-based glass artist Tom Moore creates sculptures that, like the marvellous metamorphic objects crafted by hand and by nature in the sixteenth century Wunderkammer, appear to be one thing, but are really another. Plant-birds, tree-cars, flaming-pickles and potato-fish confuse the animal, mineral and vegetable. They charm us but also reveal a world at risk.

From late February through 15 May, the Santos Museum of Economic Botany becomes a place where the facts of science and the curious beauty of nature are explored through Moore's work, as part of the 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art; Magic Object. A panoply of sculptures grown in glass will be exhibited in the Museum.

For Moore, "glass wants to be a certain type of plant" - his cultivated species are endowed with a fertile sense of humour and a tendency for prodigious growth.

The last museum of its type in the world, the Santos Museum of Economic Botany seems an anachronism in twenty-first century Adelaide. Similarly the art of glass making, an exacting science with a mysterious history, is an anachronism - one that Moore uses to address our environmental fate. In his words:

"Though my work is amusing on the surface, it is driven by a great sense of unease and is very clearly able to be read in environmental terms. I am concerned that humans have messed-up huge portions of the planet and we have broken the weather. My awareness that glass blowing is not the most environmentally-friendly creative endeavour compels me to make objects that promote greater care of the environment."

Growing “things” under glass has been part of Adelaide Botanic Garden’s history since its inception. Some of the Garden’s first exotic plants arrived in transportable glass boxes – “Wardian” cases – the only way plants could survive the long journey. Once the exotic plants were located in their garden beds, the Wardian cases were placed along the main walk and used for specimens that required protection. 

The story of glass in the Garden is also told through the 19th Century Palm House, the 20th Century Bicentennial Conservatory and the 21st Century Amazon Waterlily Pavilion. And now Tom Moore tells us an important story with glass and through glass.

Read more about Tom Moore at the Adelaide Biennial website, and see more of his work on the front forecourt and in Gallery 9 at the Art Gallery of South Australia.

The 2016 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art: Magic Object is an Art Gallery of South Australia exhibition presented in partnership with the Anne & Gordon Samstag Museum of Art, UniSA, and in association with the Adelaide Festival of Arts.