Exhibition review: Jessica Loughlin: of light

Glass pieces that reflect the immersion of land, lake and sky.

Throughout her career, glass artist Jessica Loughlin has been inspired by the vast spaces and distant horizons of Australian outback landscapes. Her latest exhibition – part of JamFactory’s ICON series – draws particularly on her visits to salt lakes, where land, lake, and sky merge in an infinite glassy expanse. Her minimalist kiln-formed glass pieces evoke this immersive experience, filling the room with misty clouds, the gleam of sunlight on water, and flashes of sudden cerulean. As Loughlin notes in the accompanying video, blue is the colour of distance – of the things we can never quite reach. 

Creating space for stillness and contemplation is part of what Loughlin hopes to achieve in her work. A set of pieces entitled focal point (2022) is made up of three discs: snapshots in varying shades of blue. At the centre of each, a small dot fixes the viewer’s eye in an absorbed, uninterrupted gaze.

A similar work, halites (2021), uses bisecting lines to focus our attention. Here, the cubic structures are also reminiscent of salt crystals. In pieces such as unfolding continuum iv (2016) and v (2017), deposits of crushed glass form cloud-like streaks, and again one is given the sense of staring into a slowly shifting sky. 

For some of the works, an accidental glance back across the room or a casual approach from a different angle can reveal more than sustained, minute observation. Standing at a distance, one notices the mirage-like quality of pieces such as space between (2005), in this distance (2006), and through distance (2006), in which what might be boundaries between land and sky become blurred gradations of colour.

Loughlin’s receptor of light series (2021-2022) features smooth, kiln-formed sculptures that strike the viewer differently with each glimpse. At one moment they might be golden, sun-warmed rocks – the next, they emit the cool gleam of ice cubes, or the radiance of opals.

Loughlin has stated that her art ‘is not about ideas’, and this exhibition avoids intellectualising her work. One must hunt around to find even the titles of the pieces, which have been inscribed faintly on the white walls so as not to disrupt the simple setup. In this way, Loughlin aims to provoke the same intuitive, bodily response we might experience in nature. 

Read: Exhibition review: Luke Sciberras, Side of the Sky

Jessica Loughlin: of light challenges the way we perceive art, anchoring her work firmly in visual, physical reality. Full appreciation of these glass artworks depends on the interplay between light and distance: on the movement of the viewer around the gallery space. In an information age, this exhibition is a surprising and unassuming respite.

Jessica Loughlin: of light
JamFactory, Adelaide

Jessica Loughlin: of light will be on display until 18 September 2022.

Megan Koch is a writer and bookseller based in Adelaide. She studied English and Applied Linguistics at Flinders University.