A Reflective Practice

Antarctica-Iceberg #1 Antarctica Project, Cast Glass Object, 2012, H40cm Photograph by Emma Varga

A Reflective Practice

Sandra Conte


1 October 2013

Emma Varga's glass sculptures have the appearance of something exquisitely frozen in time. Fascinating to the viewer, gallery-goers can often be seen ‘up close and personal’ to the works as if searching for an embedded object. It is the same degree of critical enquiry the artist herself conducts when taking inspiration from nature, whether it be by travelling through the large scale icebergs of Antarctica or looking outside her Sydney studio window to the aquatic reserve she has interpreted in her Long Reef series – a place the artist is well aware of for its ecological significance and as being under threat due to global warming.

Emma has an eye for detail and passion for the ‘multiple-layers-fusing’ technique she has developed over the past 15 years with her glass practice. She describes her ongoing commitment to this rigorous process – “It enables me to create and to gain control over three-dimensional images inside large transparent glass objects. To make each of these sculptural objects, it is necessary to cut thousands of tiny glass elements from clear and transparent coloured glass sheets and combine them with glass frits and stringers. The sculptural glass objects are made from 20–400 thin, transparent glass layers; glass mosaic elements, colored frits and stringers are assembled on each sheet, according to a complicated three-dimensional plan. These are then fused together in stages. It takes two weeks to fire and slowly cool down large sculptural works, then a further two weeks to grind and polish all of the surfaces to perfection. Only then is it finally possible to see the inside; all the fine details and veil-like structures floating in the sea of clear glass”.

Born in Yugoslavia, Emma holds a BA (Visual and Applied Arts with majors in Glass design and ceramic sculpture) from the University of Applied Arts in Belgrade, Yugoslavia. Following graduation, Emma worked for fifteen years, in cooperation with European glass factories, to create her unique art work, during which time she was active in symposiums and was the recipient of numerous awards.

Relocating to Australia in 1995, Emma continued to freelance and retained her international linkages through overseas travel as a guest teacher in Zurich, Budapest and London, Turkey, Florida and New Zealand. She is also a proud recipient of the Australia Council for the Arts Visual Arts Grants in 2006 and in 2012 for new work, the latter based on her research of Antarctica towards her three solo exhibitions at Kirra Galleries, Canberra Glassworks and Jam Factory, Adelaide in 2013-14.

Antarctica forms a powerful inspiration for Emma’s latest series and aligning her photographic images of place with the art piece provides a direct reflection of how the artist has arrived at the resulting work. Research through her trip log book, drawings and photography, inform Emma’s final renditions in glass which capture the wilds of Antarctica. Emma states that her link to nature is through her process, “All my work is from the heart – I respond with strong emotions to everything around me, especially nature, and then translate it into glass”.

With the picture-window from Varga’s Sydney studio there is a clear view of bush, beach and sea so it is little wonder that the artist and her practice abound with natural inspiration. Her ‘Long Reef’ series, (pictured on page 32 as Long Reef Beach #2) reflects Emma’s receptivity to the Long Reef Aquatic Reserve, in all its brilliance and beauty, outside her studio window.

Ever-active, this year alone, Emma has had multiple exhibitions:- PRIMA, during February and March; she was represented by Sikabonyi Gallery at WIKAM in Vienna in March; held an esteemed solo exhibition ANTARCTICA – Icebergs at MELBOURNE, Kirra Galleries in July-August; along with exhibitions at VIENNA, Künstlerhaus Wien, 2013 and SYDNEY, Australia, Sabbia Gallery.
The solo exhibition ANTARCTICA at Canberra Glassworks (September 25 - November 14) is all about the artist’s immersion in Antarctica through cast and assembled works, mainly major objects being icebergs and installations alongside which will be a number of Emma’s original photographs, made during the research trip to Antarctica in December 2012.

Emma is also showing a (new) collection of works inspired by Antarctica as presented by Kirra Galleries from October 31 - November 3, 2013 at the 20th SOFA Chicago, IL. She will also present on her 40 years in glass, at SOFA Chicago VIP Conversation on Saturday, November 2, 2013 at 11am in the VIP Conversation Space on the show floor.

Of equal note is that Emma is the only Australian whose work has been selected for the prestigious triennial Kanazawa International Glass Exhibition 2013 opening in Kanazawa, Japan in October.

Wherever Emma exhibits, be it Yugoslavia, Australia, Illinois, the view may change but her art work and practice remains one of reflection, the audience response one of fascination and the corporate response one of acquisition – a work from the Antarctica Exhibition at Kirra Galleries has been acquired for the permanent collection of the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra and another from the Long Reef Exhibition has been acquired for permanent collection of the Powerhouse Museum (Decorative Arts and Design) in Sydney.

Emma is also represented in the National Art Glass Collection, Wagga Wagga, Australia; Australian Art Trust, Melbourne; Kaplan/Ostergaard Glass Collection at Palm Springs Art Museum, Palm Springs, California; The Museum of Applied Art in Belgrade, Serbia; Glassmuseum Ebeltoft, Denmark and numerous major private collections in Australia, USA, Europe, Asia and Africa.

As such, countries all around the world are appreciating, exhibiting and reflecting on the crystal clear connections glass artist Emma Varga is making to the environment.


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