Mark Eliott wins the 2019 Tom Malone Prize

Mark Eliott’s Down at the water table (2018) has won the 2019 Tom Malone Prize; selected from a competitive shortlist of 12 works by Australian artists including Mark Eliott (NSW), Clare Belfrage (SA), Jeremy Lepisto (ACT), Marc Leib (WA), Jennifer Kemarre Martiniello (ACT), Nick Mount (SA), Matthew Curtis (ACT), Liam Fleming (SA), Kayo Yokoyama (NSW), Anne Sorensen (WA), Stephen Skillitzi (SA) and Lewis Batchelar (SA).

Mark Eliott, Down at the water table, 2018, borosilicate glass – blown and hot sculpted, recycled Australian Red Cedar, water, 58 x 69 x 16cm. Photograph: Richard Weinstein

This year’s judging panel of Aimee Frodsham (Creative Director at the Canberra Glassworks), Elizabeth Malone (Art Gallery of Western Australia Foundation Benefactor), Dr Stefano Carboni (Director, Art Gallery of Western Australia and Robert Cook (AGWA Curator of 20th Century Arts) said of the work:

‘As we moved around the highly competitive field of this year’s truly outstanding works, we found ourselves coming back to our eventual winner: Mark Eliott’s wonderful Down at the water table. What an unusual piece! Cartoony but not humorous, whimsical but not impulsive, it’s entirely in keeping with the offbeat, ever-inventive work Mark has been making over the last 20 years. It’s the first time an artist using predominantly flame-work has won the Prize, and it’s a brilliant example of the possibilities inherent in this technique. Fluid and downright untamed, Down at the water table feels simultaneously carefully planned and totally seat-of-the-pants improvised. Either way, it’s a delicate high-wire act of technical skill, yet also a very intimate work. There’s a lot to observe at close detail and a stack of surprises to be encountered (like the figures in the upside down human/canine realm) and really beautiful chromatic nuances. It’s brilliantly fresh in all ways, and we couldn’t be happier with Mark’s piece as a winner for 2019.’

Eliott further discusses his work:

‘It all started down at the local (where else?), after a solid rain. We were having a good natter over a drink when we accidentally bumped branches under the table. Next thing mycorrhizal fungi connected and it was all on for young and old. Since reading Peter Wohlleben’s The hidden life of trees, I am no longer able to see these organisms merely as chunks of wood with bark and leaves on, but as entities with some kind of undeniable intelligence and character. Instead I now commit the different sin of anthropomorphising them. In this 3D cartoon the human/canine story is incidental while the trees take centre stage.’

The Tom Malone Prize is a highly respected annual event within the Australian glass arts community and it has played an integral role in the Art Gallery of WA’s acquisition of works by Australia’s most inspiring, innovative and accomplished artists in this medium. Eliott’s Down at the water table becomes part of the State Art Collection where it will join works by previous winners: Clare Belfrage, Gabriella Bisetto, Charles Butcher, Cobi Cockburn, Brian Corr, Mel Douglas, Deirdre Feeney, Kevin Gordon, Marc Leib, Jessica Loughlin, Tom Moore, Nick Mount and Benjamin Sewell.

The 2019 Tom Malone Finalists’ exhibition is on display at the Art Gallery of WA until 13 May 2019.