Neil Roberts

Kidd, Courtney,

"It's a Knockout"

Sydney Morning Herald, Review, 14 March 2000.

Courtney Kidd

Neil Roberts trained as a glass blower although he now works primarily with assemblage and installation. His last exhibition, Bruising, sought an energy redolent of sporting contests; in this show he gets even sweatier and closer to the image of his boxing subject. How, then, does this artist bring the soaring furnace of glass to the cool confines of the gallery? How does industrial working interplay with artistic impetus? With much badinage, virtuosity and conceptual mettle. Via a series of leaded-glass spaces, implied figures populate the walls. These record energy patterns twixt boxing competitors. In Five Low Blows, a terrifically successful piece, the combatants’ legs are fluid, art nouveau tendrils, while the feet are leaden blocks. As viewers privy to front-row seating in Dew Mixed With Sweat, we witness the most effective works (and there are a couple of foul punches) tending to use the decorative properties of the glass. When these fuse with boxing paraphernalia, any preconceptions about the medium or the sport are debunked, no score. Agnes Northrop at the Gym does this with fantastic style–promoter Don King would admire the sporting prowess. A heavy-petalled leaden flower is tensioned on the far side of a wall by a boxer’s speed ball encased with lead threads on the other. We do not need to know about being a gym bunny, Northrop’s famed magnolia lines executed while designing with Tiffany, or the speedballs’ use in training. It simply furthers a dimension of our understanding. Paradoxically, in this most masculine of arenas, Roberts has brought the brittle and ancient art of the glass-maker into a fluid contemporary culture that skims time, though thankfully leaves space for the kind of humour difficult to implement in art but skilfully worked in this exhibition. At Gitte Weise until April 1. Phone 93602659.