JamFactory’s ICON series celebrates the achievements of South Australia’s most influential visual artists working in craft-based media. Jessica Loughlin is one of Australia’s most internationally acclaimed glass artists and is renowned for her highly innovative technical approach to kilnformed glass. A studio glass artist for over twenty-five years, Loughlin creates ethereal kilnformed glass artworks that explore her fascination with the beauty of emptiness and her extensive research into light and space.
A studio glass artist for over twenty-five years, Loughlin has dedicated her practice to the pursuit of capturing the transient qualities of light and the quiet sense of contemplation it provokes in the viewer. Known for her understated aesthetic, Loughlin takes her artistic cues from the vast, flat landscapes and salt lakes of South Australia. She began her artistic exploration of the horizon line in her student years and is particularly drawn to the inherent quietness and stillness of the land.
“To me, the Australian landscape is defined by its vast space and a sense of distance,” Loughlin says. “Being out in a vast space creates stillness and space within my mind, and it is portraying this stillness that has remained a constant aim within my work.”
The natural splendour of the salt lakes of Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre and Lake Gairdner have long provided Loughlin with particular inspiration due to their infinitely immersive quality. Rarely filled with water, the minimalist landscapes of these remote salt lakes seemingly fuse land and sky as one infinite plain that completely immerses the viewer on a physical, emotional and spiritual level. In Loughlin’s own words: The boundary between air, water, and ground blurred. Light became the landscape, and I looked down into the sky. It was as if I was suspended in space… Landscapes of space, reduced to sky, land and light, give little visual reference, nothing for the mind to hang onto — so the sensory system fires up to find a reference, to locate the body — and those references come from within. In her glass practice, Loughlin fuses kilnformed sheets of both opaque and translucent glass together in flat panels or thin geometric freestanding pieces that allude to shadow, reflection and refraction.
Her work is characterised by a strict reductive sensibility and restricted use of colour, with a gentle palette of soft muted hues and the motif of the mirage reoccurring frequently across her practice. Despite the reductive palette, however, Loughlin’s glass artworks contain a spectrum of colour and detail. Made of opaline glass, Loughlin’s freestanding sculptures, for example, appear milky white until they reflect light and become blue or transmit light to reveal warm orange and pinky tones. While Loughlin works with the materiality of glass it is apparent that her subject is something more intangible: seeing, experiencing and reflecting, with each piece forming a poetic statement about the nature of perception. Her artwork is often focused on providing a space for contemplation and to create a sensation of space, rather than being metaphoric or narrative in nature.
Loughlin says: My work touches on perception, questioning what we are seeing, and allowing the viewer to be tuned in to subtlety — a piece that at first may appear white, with time changes slowly to reveal different colours. Some of this is caused by the change in light — but some also by the tuning of the viewers eye. I like playing with the quiet activation of the viewer.
Intimate, infinite and immersive, Loughlin’s work appeals to something in our deeper selves and provokes a particular feeling of expansive contemplation that only silence and space can provide. One does not need to think when observing Loughlin’s creations, only to feel and to be. “I feel that my work is not about ideas and does not access intellect,” Loughlin says. “Rather, my aim is to be an abstraction, to be emotive to present the feeling of stillness…concentrated stillness.”
JamFactory ICON Jessica Loughlin: of light will tour 13 venues nationally with support from the Australia Council’s Contemporary Touring Initiative. The exhibition is accompanied by Jessica Loughlin: from here, a 183-page hard-cover monograph copublished by JamFactory and Wakefield Press, featuring essays by Julie Ewington and Tina Oldknow. JamFactory ICON Jessica Loughlin: of light was curated by JamFactory Curator and Exhibitions Manager, Caitlin Eyre.
JamFactory ICON Jessica Loughlin: of light is a JamFactory touring exhibition assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory board. Jessica Loughlin acknowledges the support of the Department of the Premier and Cabinet through an Arts South Australia Grant.