Mark Eliott’s practice goes beyond the glass studio into performance and video. While art objects can be sold in a gallery, animations are enjoyed in platforms like Vimeo that are distributed for free. For Eliott, his flame-worked animations express the spirit and energy that he finds in glass
How did the idea begin of making animations?
The idea had been in the back of my mind for a while, but I shelved it in the unlikely projects department and completely forgot about it. In 2008, I began a Research Masters in the glass studio at Sydney College of the Arts. While in Errol Bailey’s theory class, I met Jack McGrath who was doing a masters in digital media. We discussed the idea of animating flame-worked glass using techniques similar to those used in Claymation. Since Jack was already making animations and installations and my research topic was creative improvisation, it was easy for us both to segue into this unexpected experimental project. In the process we developed a hybrid form of animation using stop motion photography of molten glass and digital compositing. Others helped in this project including artist/compositer, Vanessa White, and my late father, the actor, Tim Eliott.
The studio model works on the basis of art works produced for sale in galleries. Can you sell the animations?
The answer to this is a work in progress. Most of my income is produced in the studio making glass objects for exhibition and sale as well as teaching. Jack McGrath is now a professional filmmaker and educator. So far we have been treating the flame-glass animation project as an exciting experimental creative outlet rather than as a source of direct financial reward, though we believe it has great potential to generate income and we are seeking funding for future projects.
What would you like visitors to get out of your work?
I would like visitors to engage with the stories on which many of the animations and sculptures are based. In addition, there is a theme running through the work, which is the sub-narrative of process and materiality associated with working in glass and the intimacy one can develop over a lifetime’s relationship with this dynamic, malleable and often unpredictable substance.
Can you give us a glimpse of your world?
I was born in New Zealand, though my teenage years and adult life as an artist have been based in Australia—mostly in Bondi, Sydney where I now live with my wonderful partner and our two children, who are both at University studying economics and science. It was in Bondi that the animated story Dr Mermaid and the Abovemarine first emerged. This is a fantasy which particularly appeals to children, yet I think its underlying themes are universal. These include preserving fragile marine ecosystems, improving human respect for other organisms, empowerment of women and the search for a sense of belonging to place through story.
I enjoy participating in community projects and arts events such as Sculpture by the Sea and teaching at the Glassworks in Canberra where I am also undertaking a PHD part time at the Australian national university. I also like to perform with The Agar dish live-Art group and exhibit with Kirra galleries, Glass Artists Gallery and Flying Pig Precinct. Currently I have a studio at 107 Projects, an artist-run, multi-purpose venue in Redfern, Sydney. I am a musician and have been unable to give up my passion for saxophone in spite of a busy career in the visual arts. Currently I perform in a duo with singer-songwriter Ben Fink at Marcels Exlounge café, Bronte Beach.
There are plenty of things in the world that concern me such as increasing gaps between rich and poor, a common lack of respect for indigenous cultures and people who try to thwart action on climate change. I also get angry about Sydney’s cuts to tertiary arts education, and Australia’s treatment of asylum seekers who arrive by boat, but I try not to lose sight of the extraordinary beauty of the world, its people and the greater family of life to which we all belong.
How can people see these animations?
Our recent work will soon be on my website markeliottglass.com but in the mean time people can see several of our early works on vimeo if they follow these links
For more works, see markeliottglass.com
Like the article? Make it a conversation by leaving a comment below. If you believe in supporting a platform for culture-makers, consider becoming a subscriber.