Sydney artist Marion Borgelt confesses to being surprised to hear her latest exhibition, Musical Geometry at Turner Galleries, is in fact her 47th solo show, her third in Perth.
“It’s a lot, I suppose,” she says, adding she’s simply never really counted them. With works in many corporate, national and international public collections, and countless group exhibitions since 1975, she is clearly busy, conquering new mediums, and interpreting new experiences. “There’s always a project propelling you to the next exhibition,” she says.
A consummate professional, the years have not jaded her outlook nor her work. Instead, there’s a certain freshness to her output across a range of mediums, and a beauty in its execution difficult to ignore. Creating works of tight technical excellence without losing sight of aesthetics is a tightrope act she manages to balance effortlessly.
Broken duck eggshells, for instance, are elegantly incorporated into organically shaped curved wood in an immensely labour intensive exercise. She says they’re sourced from her stepson’s restaurant in Sydney.
“I tell him I need six dozen, then they’re disinfected, broken, glued randomly to a prepared surface by hand or using tweezers. Grout is then applied before a beeswax finish, and finally, careful sanding to obtain a smooth surface.”
On canvas, Borgelt is inspired by spires and minarets, reflected in pulsating optical illusions of overlapping shapes, a legacy of visits to Istanbul. In her Liquid Light works, the canvas is painted on both sides and painstakingly cut, twisted and pinned into place, creating a vibrating shift of colour as the viewer passes. Much of her work is based on the Moon and its effect on us. A series of exquisite glass spheres is the result of experimenting with master glass artists to realise an interpretation of Tsukimi, or Moon viewing, a Japanese tradition of celebrating the autumn Moon with offerings of food and decorations.
She’s been working with glass for over five years, firstly at Murano in Italy.
“There’s an enormous knowledge there passed down for thousands of years, but I discovered they were quite secretive, only addressing the particular question you had. I worked with the maestro, a master of glass. As we experimented I could gradually see the magic happening.”
She says it took eight months at the Sydney College of Arts working with a glass master to stumble upon effects to lead her down a track she felt would be inspiring.
“People don’t realise what’s involved with glass. If only they had the knowledge of how it came about then they’d realise the skills and costs required to make glass artworks. It’s the most demanding and difficult material I’ve ever worked with, and I’ve worked with a lot of different materials.”
Borgelt was born in Nhill, 1954, far western Victoria in the Woomera district where Sidney Nolan was known for painting the local landscape when stationed there during World War II, and Arthur Boyd painted the region in drought.
To appease her parents Borgelt spent a year as a secondary school teacher. “My parents were insistent I do something with reliability. At the time a career in art was considered an indulgence.” A scholarship with the New York Studio School was a big jump, and she’s hasn’t looked back. A fellowship from the French government to live and work in Paris followed, where she consequently spent eight years.
She says the exhibition title reflects logical chords and rhythms running through the show. Music also parallels the lunar fluxes represented in her work, continually fluctuating. “Greek philosopher Heraclitus said the only constant is change. We all lament this when we look in the mirror,” she says.