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DESIGN Canberra: Ciao Mr. Lawrence

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I’m in an Uber on my way to meet with the stylish Italian duo behind the Milan-based design consultancy, Mr. Lawrence, when I realise I’m anything but stylish—my dress is on inside-out.

I’d been in bed ill for two days, but nothing will stop me from interviewing Annalisa Rosso who, with her partner in life and business, Francesco Mainardi, curated Glass Utopia—the signature exhibition for DESIGN Canberra 2019.

Dress quickly righted just before the interview, I introduce myself to the impeccable but warm and friendly Annalisa and Francesco to find out more about this exhibition.

“Last year I was invited as a speaker by DESIGN Canberra at the Symposium dedicated to the Italian architect Enrico Taglietti, and I visited the Italian Embassy,” says Annalisa.

“Mr Taglietti talked about a bridge between Italy and Canberra, between us, the small island of Venice and Canberra. I thought that was really touching and I’m hopeful that my work as the curator of Glass Utopia continues on with this dialogue in 2019.”

Inspired by the Murano glass chandelier that Enrico and his wife Francesca installed at the Italian Ambassador’s Residence in Canberra in 1967, the Glass Utopia exhibition draws a parallel between Venetian contemporary glass production and the Australian experience. The exhibition features contemporary glass pieces by Italian and Australian designers.

“I’m a design curator and journalist and my Milanese studio is focused on contemporary design. This puts me in a unique position to observe the resurgence in glass design. In the ’80s there was a feeling of pessimism, workshops were closing, there was a lack of interest from brands in glass design and an increasing shortage of craftsmen. I had to question whether traditional crafts were still realistically sustainable,” said Annalisa.

Fortunately for design admirers, a new wave of artists and designers has recently emerged, with a new sensibility and a willingness to reinterpret the ancient craft of glass design.

This is evidenced by a new international market interested in glass contemporary design and the popular Venice Glass Week, now in its third year.

“Rachael Coghlan [the Artistic Director of DESIGN Canberra] and I were talking about this international renaissance, which is also happening in Australia. Thanks to Rachael and DESIGN Canberra, I was invited to explore contemporary Australian art glass and I discovered common elements between Australia and Italy: inspiration, technique, aesthetic and research.
From this discovery, Glass Utopia was born.”

With the Italian Embassy’s glass chandelier as inspiration, Annalisa and Francesco selected 24 pieces made by six Italian designers and six Australian designers: Elizabeth Kelly, Federico Peri, Gala Fernandez, Jenni Kemarre Martiniello, Liam Fleming, Matteo Zorzenoni, Mel Douglas, Peter Bowles, Stories of Italy, Tom Skeehan, Federica Biasi, Zanellato Bortotto.

“There is a common DNA shared between Australian and Italian designers and a shared curiosity. For Glass Utopia, we decided to keep the idea of community, by not dividing the countries in the exhibition. There are no captions because we want people’s reactions to be spontaneous and appreciate the individual pieces, without identifying them as Australian or Italian designers.

Annalisa Rosso and Francesco Mainardi.

“People will see a lot of strong colours in the objects, which is unusual in glass making. It can be very difficult to use colour because of the glass temperature, which adds to the complexity of making these unique pieces,” explains Annalisa.

The exhibition features a range of stunning pieces—large and small, functional and decorative.

“The world is rediscovering the values of makers and artisans. Craftmanship means quality and sustainability. We love the way that different people from across the world have something to tell each other, and I hope this is something that people take with them from Glass Utopia,” says Annalisa.

I finish the interview, inspired to attend the exhibition, and promising myself to check the mirror before I leave the house.

Glass Utopia is on display until Sunday 24 November 2019 at Craft ACT: Level One, North Building, 180 London Circuit, Canberra. After this, it will travel to Design Tasmania in Launceston.

Discussions are underway to take the exhibition to Milan Design Week and Venice Glass Week.

For more Festival highlights visit: designcanberrafestival.com.au

HerCanberra is a proud media partner of DESIGN Canberra 2019

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