Glass and Light — Ashley Crawford, 2013

Louise Forthun has always been something of a surveyor, a mapper of strange civilisations, amalgams of major metropolis’ morphed as palimpsests of landmarks, fictional topographies worthy of a Borges novel, detailed, aerial views of non-existent cities yet layered with recognizable landmarks.

Forthun has always been fascinated with the architectural and the grid-like patterns that constitute contemporary living. Her works have hinted at the cyber-worlds of William Gibson (Neuromancer) and she has blurred the distinctions between such major conurbations as Tokyo, Manhattan and Melbourne.

But in her most recent work she has gone from the hovering aerial view to below. She has moved from urban-planner to urban archeologist, digging beneath the megalopolis to discover the detritus of past empires. In doing so she has unearthed fragments that hint at ritual and ceremony, an archaic – or perhaps futuristic – array of carefully assembled vitrines and glassware frozen in time, awaiting discovery. Arrayed in stasis for future sacrament.

We are, inevitably, reminded of the patterns of ancient hieroglyphs and simultaneously of the glittering bar array in Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining. Magical grails for the Blood of Christ or decanters for hundred-year-old whisky. We have always viewed Forthun’s work from a distance, the glittering lights of towers and apartment complexes seen from afar. Here Forthun has zoomed in, piercing her exteriors to reveal a world of glittering accouterments and dazzling appurtenances.

She has moved from the stringently external to intimately internal. There is something strangely sacramental in these tableaux, these patterns of glass and light lying in wait for ritual and celebration. While she is equally adept at portraying organic forms – indeed, at one stage executing a series of sumptuous flowers – it was the architectural grid that remains the cornerstone of her practice. That sense of the formalized grid remains, but now it contains multitudes, mysteriously beautiful goblets, vases, siphons and fragments. A treasure trove, hidden, until now.

Dr Ashley Crawford, 2013