Klaus Moje was an artist of high international stature and a respected teacher and mentor for many younger artists working in glass in Australia and overseas. He was born in Hamburg, Germany in 1936 and arrived in Canberra in 1982 to take up the position of the founding Head of the Glass Workshop at the Canberra School of Art, Australian National University. There he developed one of the world’s most innovative glass programs, nurturing a new generation of glass artists and integrating glass into the wider spectrum of contemporary Australian art. While he maintained this formal position until his retirement in 1992, his influence on glass education in Australia, generous mentorship of his former students and strong advocacy for the field continued until his death in Canberra on 24 September 2016.
He gained a Journeyman’s Certificate as a glass cutter and grinder in the Moje family workshop in Hamburg, Germany from 1952-55, and a Master’s Certificate from the Rheinbach and Hadamar Glass Schools in Germany, from 1957–59, where he absorbed the rigorous aesthetic of the Bauhaus and the fast-moving spirit of modernism of German design of the 1960s. His work in Germany from the early 1960s, developed in partnership with his first wife, Isgard Moje-Wohlgemuth, was focused on architectural glass and the promotion of a new generation of artists working with the material in a studio setting, providing opportunities for them to develop an international network.
The striated, agate-like glass produced in Germany and Austria in the nineteenth century and the European constructivism of the early twentieth century echo through the geometry that characterised Moje’s work. Combining an interest in ancient Roman mosaic glass with modern methods of fusing different types of glass, he developed a unique language of pattern and colour that sustained his practice across continents and time. The sense of looking at the world though a prism or a kaleidoscope is evoked through Moje‘s work, his mosaic glass engaging the viewer through its ingenuity and its exploitation of glass’ particular qualities of translucence and refraction, where the edge of one colour fuses into the next. Moje was one of the first to use the newly-developed American Bullseye glass, the properties of which substantially broadened his colour palette for fusing glass and building graphic form into his works.
After arriving in Australia he developed this structural language to incorporate the influence of the colour and visual drama of the Australian landscape. Close inspection of his glass reveals flashes of unexpected brilliance, graphic tensions and fluidities within the serene formality of his elemental compositions.
He maintained a studio practice with his wife, the ceramicist Brigitte Enders, in Canberra and Wapengo on the south NSW coast and travelled extensively to give workshops, lectures and hold exhibitions of his and his students’ and colleagues’ work at leading galleries and museums across Europe and the USA. With a 50-year career in glass, he was a key figure in the development of professional glass training in Australia. His passionate advocacy for glass education and the resultant growing cohort of professional artists in the glass field in Australia kept the focus on Canberra as a centre of excellence in the field. He headed the campaign for the establishment of an international centre for innovative glass work, experimentation and exhibitions in Canberra, working with the ACT Government towards the realisation of the Canberra Glassworks in 2005.
He was made an Honorary Officer (AO) of the Order of Australia in 2006 for his services to glass and glass education. His numerous other Australian and international awards included an Australia Council Emeritus Award in 2001.
The National Gallery of Australia has six works by Klaus Moje, including a 2009 Rollup vase currently on display in the exhibition Contemporary Glass.
Dr Robert Bell AM
Senior Curator Decorative Arts and Design
25 September 2016