Each month a member of the community is invited to take part in My Choice, the Sarjeant Gallery's online exhibition series on the Sarjeant website.

Each My Choice selector is invited to view the Sarjeant collection through the gallery's digital portal Explore the Collection and select six works to exhibit.

February's My Choice has been selected by Philip Stokes, one of Australasia's leading contemporary glass artists who works out of New Zealand Glassworks on Rutland St and where you can see him in action in front of the furnace most days.

An Australian, Stokes graduated with honours from Monash University in Melbourne in 2001, and has worked as a full time glass artist with hot glass since 2002.

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He opened the first open access hot glass facility in Melbourne and ran this business until 2016 when he relocated from Melbourne to live in Whanganui with his husband Scott Redding.

"Moving from Melbourne to Whanganui has been a creative release, from hustle and bustle to a more gentle pace has opened many creative pathways" say Stokes.

Phil Stokes this month's My Choice selector
Phil Stokes this month's My Choice selector

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Stokes is often called on to work on collaborative glass artworks such as the CoLab Chandelier and the stunning Friends of the Sarjeant chandelier by the Crystal Chain Gang which was gifted to the Sarjeant Gallery on the occasion of its 100th birthday last September.

A regular visitor to the Sarjeant he has also entered the Whanganui Arts Review for the last three years and this year will be no exception.

"The Arts Review is a brilliant way to experience the plethora of creative output from our community over the past year," he says.

When watching Stokes work on the hot shop floor at New Zealand Glassworks it's easy to see his theatre background in motion as he dips, lifts, turns and blows the molten glass in a seemingly choreographed pattern of movements – all the while in close physical presence of a tonne of more of the blazing hot furnace.

Sarjeant Gallery Happenings
Sarjeant Gallery Happenings

Working with hot glass is a collaborative endeavour requiring two people and a pair of glass artists might become extremely adept at predicting each other's movements and quickly intuiting what is needed next.

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Stokes and his husband have been working together in glass for 15 years and watching them work is a fascinating study in skill, artistry, rhythm and partnership.

Stokes said, "I find handling hot glass is surprisingly similar to the stage; spontaneity, improvisation and chance are all elements that I enjoy and exploit, both in the making and in the final piece."

Stokes My Choice selection includes Whispering Hope by the NZ painter Denys Watkins.

"This painting in the pop art style is a symbol of my new life and home. My partner and I have acquired a similar one in Castlecliff. It symbolises our new life after having left the hustle of city life in Melbourne."

Perhaps unsurprisingly he has also selected Kangaroos a photograph by the late photographer Peter Peryer, explaining, "I used to work at a native animal reserve in far North Queensland looking after these unique creatures. This photograph reminds me now of the fires sweeping through Australia and the subsequent devastation of wildlife."

Also chosen is a beautiful Peryer photograph of the Wrestlers – the white marble statue secured for the Sarjeant Gallery in 1914 by Henry Sarjeant's widow Ellen and her husband John Armstrong Neame.

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The Wrestlers is one of the most famous examples of classical Greek art (the original was made in the third century BC) and the Neames went to great pains to secure this three-quarter sized copy in marble for the Gallery.

They purchased it from the studio of artist Raffaello Romanelli in Florence and it sat under the dome of the Sarjeant Gallery for 60 years. It is one of the most famous works in the Sarjeant Collection and is now in storage waiting for the Sarjeant Gallery to reopen after the redevelopment.

To see Philip Stokes My Choice selection and to read his personal feedback go to exhibitions on the Sarjeant website.