• Catherine Flutsch

Netflix Series, Blown Away, Elliot Walker's new glass art show.

★★★★★

[Spoiler Alert]

Review: Elliot Walker, contemporary glass art show, Plenty, as shown via Zoom call hosted by Johnny Messum on Friday 29 January 2021 11am at Messums Gallery in Wiltshire, also available online.

Fans of the Netflix glass blowing competition series, Blown Away, are now able to visit winner, Elliot Walker’s inaugural solo show, Plenty, online. Gallery Messums have done a beautiful job in presenting Walker’s pieces in different ways to help the audience get a real sense of the 3D through the 2D filter of our screens.


Photograph by Jo Sullivan and Messums Wiltshire

In addition to the sensitively photographed pieces in the online exhibition, Messums has provided us with a film that includes a spectacular drone shot of the beautiful 13th century Wiltshire gallery where the pieces are installed.

Screen shot of Messums Whiltshire, taken from the virtual tour.

Instead of the traditional private viewing for the press, on Friday 29 January, Messums invited a number of reviewers to a Zoom tour, hosted by Johnny Messum who wheeled his laptop (slightly precariously) around the gallery on a trolley to talk about the pieces. This friendly and unpretentious approach brought the pieces to life, and was particularly helpful in getting a sense of the scale.

Photograph by Jo Sullivan and Messums Wiltshire

The zoom tour also brought us some heart stopping moments, such as when Johnny picked up the metal part of a piece called CORRUPTIOIN and had trouble getting it back together again. The horrific possibility that a gallerist might actually break a piece on a live zoom call was like watching a car crash in slow motion. Thankfully, the piece came together safely and my knuckles turned from white back to normal human colour!


Not all the pieces made and photographed have been displayed in the gallery, so my review only comments on the pieces that I saw on the Zoom call tour. The show, as displayed when I saw it, was made up of 17 different pieces or groups of pieces grouped into six different themes; overblown fruit, the Still Life series, the Corruptioin series, the Bleach series, the Irreverence installation and the A-Maize pieces.

Photograph by Jo Sullivan and Messums Wiltshire

The Still Life series is the largest series creating six still life scenes mostly featuring seafood. Walker credits his inspiration for this series to Dutch 17th century Vanitas paintings. Vanitas paintings contain highly realistically painted symbols, usually evoking death, designed to highlight the impermanence of vanity, ego, ambition and earthly pleasures.

Still Life with Golden Goblet, Pieter de Ring, 1650-60, Rijksmuseum.


Walker provides an ironic take on the Vanitas ethos by showing installations which conjure earthly pleasures so temptingly that one hardly minds that the pleasure of such an indulgence is transitory!

Photograph by Jo Sullivan and Messums Wiltshire

Another traditional theme for Vanitas paintings is the ear of corn or maize – which symbolises everlasting life. Walker’s pieces A-Maize – two maize cobs rendered much larger than life seem to glow with an internal light on their pedestal – like religious icons – an interesting take on the eternal life theme.

Photograph by Jo Sullivan and Messums Wiltshire

The Still Life series contains fantastically and delicately rendered prawns, accompanied by exquisite lemon wedges and my personal favourite from this series, a life size salmon, cut into chunks – showing the layering of the orange flesh and the centre bone to perfection.

Photograph by Jo Sullivan and Messums Wiltshire

The Corruptioin series is made up of three sets of glass goblets, seemingly distorted under the weight of what look like heavy metal boxes.

Photograph by Jo Sullivan and Messums Wiltshire

It is these pieces that conjure up Escher, another of Walker’s inspirations.

Picture taken as a screen shot from the virtual tour.

The overblow fruit series, made up of 3 large, pop-art style fruit evoke the negatives of over-indulgence and excessive consumption in a very American way; reminiscent of many of Jeff Koons pieces which were recently exhibited at the Ashmolean museum. I wonder if Walker attended?

I photographed this, the Balloon Venus, at the Jeff Koons Exhibition at the Ashmolean, Feb - June 2019.

My favourite work in the exhibition is the installation called Irreverence. Irreverence is made up of 20 black and white glass goblets, which have been distorted by being hammered into the wall with large, opaque and metallic-looking glass nails.

Picture taken as a screen shot from the virtual tour.

This installation, more than all the others, had the feel of a true contemporary art installation – combining the virtuosity of the master craftsperson with a clear artistic point of view; inviting the audience to ponder fragility, impermanence, irreverence and violence.

Picture taken as screen shot from virtual tour.

One of the criticisms of Walker’s work in the Netflix series is that his work was “glib” or that it was “one note” – even though that “note” was good. There is no doubt that the pieces are all exquisitely crafted but I do think that this criticism can still be applied to his pieces other than the Irreverence installation. As an installation, Irreverence demands the most from the audience, and to me, that interaction makes it the most successful as art.

Photograph by Jo Sullivan and Messums Wiltshire

It’s a work I can come back to multiple times. In future shows, I would love to see Walker choose one theme and present that theme in a way that demands the audience to think through the theme rather than present the interpretation to the audience on a platter, as it were.

Esoteric discussion about art aside, all the pieces are exquisitely made, shiny, beautiful to look at and will cheer you up in a dark, dark British winter. What’s not to love?

Square Stage