When Liam Fleming first wandered through the halls of the Art Gallery of South Australia as a child, little did he know his sculptural glass work would one day end up on display there, alongside world-famous artists who inspire him.
South Australian-born artist Liam Fleming got into glass blowing at a young age. After taking on work experience in a private glass studio aged 16, he went on to study visual arts, specialising in glass, at the University of South Australia. Following that, Liam was accepted as an associate at the JamFactory in 2012.
Today, more than 16 years on, Liam has made a big name for himself (although he remains as humble as ever). He’s the Production Manager in the JamFactory glass studio (a position he’s held since 2015); he’s collaborated with a number of notable creatives including furniture maker Jon Goulder (their Congruent side table was exhibited in Milan and London’s respective design weeks); he’s exhibited in Berlin for Australia now; and his current collection of sculptural glass work is now on display at the Art Gallery of South Australia (AGSA), in an exhibition he himself curated, titled Light and colour. Phew.
Liam’s success is, of course, mostly thanks to his extraordinary talent, however financial support via scholarships and grants has played a part.
Most notable is the Guildhouse Fellowship, which he was awarded two years ago. The Fellowship, which is valued at more than $50,000, is generously supported by the James and Diana Ramsay Foundation and is presented in partnership with AGSA. It’s intended for South Australian artists who have moved beyond the early years of their practice, who seek an expansive opportunity to explore, research and create. Other Guildhouse Fellows include Troy-Anthony Baylis (2019), Sera Waters (2020) and Tom Phillips (2022).
“The Guildhouse Fellowship was a huge support,” says Liam. “It paid my way for a year and I got to develop a lot of new work and entirely focus on my own practice.”
The new works Liam refers to are his resting in colour pieces, which “highlight colour and make it a spatial and structural form”. Eleven of these pieces, made through a simplified kiln and blowing process, form part of Liam’s self-curated exhibition Light and colour, now showing in Gallery 17 at AGSA (until December 3, 2023). Two of Liam’s larger-scale transitory forms also feature, as do three works by internationally-renowned British painter Bridget Riley – from whom Liam has long drawn inspiration – and Josef Albers’ Homage to the Square.
“I am incredibly happy to be in the company of these two artists,” says Liam.
“The gallery is a place I’ve always gone to, all through art school, so to actually see your own work there … it’s inspiring to keep making, working.”
Liam’s advice for aspiring South Australian artists is short but sweet: “Just make things,” he says.
“Don’t hesitate over whether it’s a good idea or not – it doesn’t matter.
“As long as you build confidence in your abilities and your skills, that’s what can open doors.
“Having knowledge only comes through making.”
And “making” is exactly what Liam plans to continue doing: “I still haven’t finished playing, there’s so much possibility!”
Liam Fleming: Light and colour is on display in Gallery 17 at the Art Gallery of South Australia, from now until 3 December, 2023. Entry is free.