18 March 2024

From Sierra Leone to Gundaroo: Sculptor cracks new genre with glass exhibition

| Sally Hopman
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Woman behind artist's bench

Rosalind Lemoh’s exhibition, Told, Retold, Untold, has just opened at the Canberra Glassworks, Kingston. Photo: Canberra Glassworks.

For Rosalind Lemoh, whether in her homeland Sierra Leone or the place she now calls home Gundaroo, it’s all about being inspired by your surroundings.

In Sierra Leone, where she grew up as the daughter of a Sierra Leone father and Australian mother, it was all about the people: what they did, how they did it with their hands, what they built and what it meant to the community in which they lived.

“I’ve always been fascinated by what people can do with their hands, different kinds of manual labour and also, in a place like Sierra Leone, the division of labour between men and women. In Sierra Leone women work very hard, but often behind the scenes. It’s like that in the country here, women do so much work.”

Since moving to Canberra in 2004 to study sculpture at the Australian National University School of Arts, her surroundings might have changed, but her passion for creating remains, particularly “industrial-like sculpture”.

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“We moved from Canberra to Gundaroo because I wanted a place where I could have a really big shed to work in – and for my partner who is into solar passive design,” she said. “It’s perfect here. It’s such a beautiful community in Gundaroo. There is so much heritage here.”

For this artist, heritage plays an important part of her work. Although she studied sculpture through a variety of mediums, she has, for the past 12 months, been working in glass after being named the 2023 artist-in-residence at the Canberra Glassworks.

“A friend of mine had done a residency here a few years ago and told me how amazing it was to work with glass. I had wanted to work with it for a while, so this was the perfect opportunity for me.

Glass sculpture saying Told, Retold, Untold

Gundaroo artist Rosalind Lemoh’s exhibition, Told, Retold, Untold, has just opened at Canberra Glassworks. Photo: Damien Geary.

“I’d never really worked with it before but it has turned out to be the best immersive experience and the Glassworks are amazing. There are very few places where you can do everything – where you can access kilns, moulding rooms, everything you need.

“It’s a special place for me because here you can think as well as do.”

As her residency comes to an end, an exhibition of the work she’s done during the year opens at the Kingston gallery in what once was the old Powerhouse.

It is that history that Rosalind has encompassed in the exhibition, Told, Retold, Untold.

“This building had such a productive history,” she said. “When you’re in a place like this you can’t help wondering what it was like before you. It’s like being in a space that you weren’t part of before – but are now.”

Her site-specific exhibition explores the building’s architectural history as well as larger social themes – through the art of glass.

Glass sculpture

Edges Find Themselves, one of the works of glass art in Rosalind Lemoh’s new exhibition at Canberra Glassworks. Photo: Damien Geary.

Artistic Director of the Canberra Glassworks Aimee Frodsham said the exhibition showcased the potential of glass beyond what visitors to the gallery typically expected.

“Rosalind approaches glass as a story-telling material, focusing on the process rather than traditional techniques,” she said. “It’s incredible to witness such a high quality of work from unique perspectives as a result of our residency.”

She said the artist reframed the stories of the Powerhouse and inserted the unheard voices, particularly those of women, into historical discussion.

“She weaves together objects that have been lovingly and skilfully recast, both industrial and organic, to construct object-based works that draw references from still-life paintings.”

Told. Retold. Untold. An exhibition by Rosalind Lemoh is at Canberra Glassworks, Kingston, from 7 March to 28 April. Open daily. Free. Gallery floor talk Saturday 20 April at 2 pm.

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