Submitted Review

Cordon Salon: Volume 3 Designwork 05

  • Sophie Gannon Gallery • Melbourne

  • 15 March—31 March 2021

  • Donald Holt • Published 23 March 2021

‘These might be the secret bits.’


This exhibition is a part of Melbourne Design Week which runs from March 26- April 6, 2021. The exhibitions seem to flow over the edges of the duration, but I guess tight title is a good marketing tool. Perhaps “design fortnight” is too saggy and old school, or the name change has been stuck in a committee before it gets to a board before its presented to a self-appointed cultural prince to be anointed or vetoed.

I digress, distracted by nomenclature, but this very thing is the work of designers. Working out the best solution and solving a problem.

Sophie Gannon Gallery presents a suite of “puddle mirrors” a part of this festival. They are many and they are exhibited in small, medium, large and extra-large sizes. They are not multiples as this would be impossible as the objects are crafted by specialized artisans, using a high guarded set of techniques to fabricate this group of work. Or so I was informed by a gallerist on my visit.

To me, they appear to be a series various sized low iron float glass panels with a silver nitrate solution pooled on the rear. This dangerous material is hard to control, and this is the essence of the randomness of the mirrored forms when viewed at face. These puddles’ inherent chance is further exploited by the application of various treatments that illuminate the mirrored pools: opaque block colour, translucent washes, diachronic films and more.  The latter, I found most successful enhancing the illusionistic space of the mirror with the object quality of the (mirror) glass plate by spilling colour back to the wall, creating a very satisfying result. There are various efflorescent and painterly qualities as well. These might be the secret bits.

The display of some 45 works, ranked by size and mounting type, fill the gallery. The presentation amplifies the experience of the objects into a spatial vehicle appropriate to the mirror as a studied form (think trippy Versailles). However, if one were to approach each object in series to analyse their salient qualities, one may end up a narcissist or considering vampirism. The mass of work does suggest a failure to edit.  Although if this were a research project, the taxonomy approach is valid, like so many embalmed avian specimens in a cabinet for the purpose of research.

Don’t get me wrong these are beguiling & desirable things.  As you can see, I’m struggling find the message or the problem that these works are the solution to. Perhaps we should focus on its parent entity and call it the “Applied Arts Festival of Variable Duration”?

Design a typeface for that!