Born in Melbourne and based in Adelaide, Australia, artist Clare Belfrage has maintained a distinguished glassblowing practice for over 30 years. Detailed and complex glass drawings on blown glass forms reflect the high-level skill and mastery of the craft that makes her one of the country’s most renowned artists in this medium. Inspired by nature and its various rhythms and energies, Belfrage’s exquisite sculptural objects express her fine attention to detail and interest in the minutiae of the natural world.
Belfrage states: “As an artist, my point of view is often looking from close up. The big feeling that ‘small’ gives me is intimate and powerful. The industry in nature, its rhythm and energy, dramatic and delicate still holds my fascination as does the language and processes of glass.”
With a long involvement in education, Belfrage has lectured in the glass programs at the University of South Australia, Ohio State University and Curtin University, Western Australia. A founding member of blue pony studio in Adelaide, Belfrage played the pivotal role of Creative Director at Canberra Glassworks from 2009 to 2013. She is currently an Adjunct Professor at the University of South Australia and has taught numerous workshops throughout Australia, New Zealand, Japan and the United States.
Belfrage’s work is represented in major public collections including: most of the Australian State Gallery collections, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Museum of Arts and Sciences, Sydney, National Art Glass Collection, Wagga Wagga, Corning Museum of Glass, Peabody Essex Museum, Tacoma Museum of Glass and Toledo Museum of Art, USA, Ebeltoft Glass Museum, Denmark, Ernsting Stifltung Glass Museum, Germany, Castello Sforzesco Museum, Italy, Museo do Vidro, Marinha Grande, Portugal and Niijima Glass Museum, Japan.
In addition to Australia, Belfrage exhibits regularly in North America, Europe, Hong Kong and New Zealand. Her work was recognized for its innovation and originality in 2005 and 2011 with the Tom Malone Glass Prize presented by the Art Gallery of Western Australia. In 2016, the artist was awarded the inaugural FUSE Glass Prize for Australian and New Zealand glass and in 2018 was selected as the South Australian Living Artist Festival feature artist, becoming the subject of the festival’s annual monograph, Rhythms of Necessity, written by Kay Lawrence and Sera Waters. She was also named JamFactory Icon of 2018, presenting a solo exhibition for a three-year national tour.
With rounded corners and soothing pastel hues, Belfrage’s uniquely shaped pieces stand out for their delicate patterns drifting over organic forms. Each of these ethereal designs is “drawn” with glass stringers. The sandblasted and pumiced surface creates a satin finish that really helps to draw the viewer into the layers of pattern, which is quite different from what a reflective surface does. Grids made of softly curving white lines, circular slices, and strips of different colors are just a few of the ways she covers her sculptures. The mesmerizing blueprints contrast the pure simplicity of the sculptural shape, which in turn creates visual depth. Although the artist plans carefully and there is a lot of preparation that goes into each piece, she works consciously with the fluid nature of the material and process so the pattern stretches, softens, and opens up – an important aspect of the final piece.
She told Modern Met: “When absorbed by the natural world, the enduring inspiration for my work, part of my experience of wonder is the contemplation of Time – the way Time is described, measured, and held. It can feel frozen or captured, it can feel sped up, dense with energy, it can feel fleeting, and it can feel endless. The rhythms within the natural world that I observe and work to bring into my making, mark out movement through Time, evidence of the life that is lived, expressing growth, aging, shedding, mapping and binding.”
Belfrage is currently completing a two-week residency at the Tweed Regional Gallery in Murwillumbah, NSW, Australia, which will result in a solo exhibition to take place in August 2023. She will be exhibiting with Adrian Sassoon Gallery at the art fair, PAD London Design + Art 2022, October 11 – 16 in Berkeley Square, London, and with Sandra Ainsley Gallery in Toronto from October 27 – 30, 2022. Belfrage will also participate in a three-week residency followed by a solo exhibition at Soneva Fushi Art Glass in the Maldives in December 2022.