Tuesday September 11th 2012, 12:26 pm
Filed under: Art,Materials
Glass is and always has been the most fascinating material to me. Materials like wood and metal seem fairly straightforward in my eyes but the fact that glass can be both liquid and solid give it endless intrigue from an artistic point of of view. An interesting thing though that I’ve noticed recently is that glass almost has magical powers because when people look at it, they don’t often know how to describe how it makes them feel or what it is that they like about it. They end up saying silly things like, “I like it because it’s glassy” or even describing pieces as “glassy glass”…and I’m even talking about artists here. I often laugh when I hear it because it does sound so funny. Of course it’s glassy – it’s glass! But then I continue to witness the complete speechlessness people seem to experience when trying to describe a piece and it truly is a material that often defies words.
However, I’ve come to realize that “glassy glass” does in fact seem to point to a specific way the material looks. It’s shiny, sure, and it’s smooth, usually, but it’s that extra something that makes it’s glassy that is difficult to describe. It definitely is something that seems to typically reference blown glass, the sexiest of the glass arts, and typicall not that of glass that has been cold worked or shaped using warm techniques such as lampworking.
To be perfectly honest, I’m not a big fan of glassy glass. It’s purty and I know it required a certain amount of skills, often a lot of skill, but it takes a pretty unique piece to turn my head. Usually it will be work that incorporates other materials or even better, it’s work done by a non-glass artist that is trying to make the material do something a typical glass artist wouldn’t even think of simply because they don’t have the same mental boundaries. Therefore, I’m continually on the search for glass that I find intriguing and in fact defies the typical “glassy glass” category. It’s not easy.
I came across Graham Caldwell some time ago but then forgot about him for awhile, until I gave a presentation recently on inspirational glass sculpture. His work interests me for multiple reasons. One, he uses multiple pieces to create an entire networked surface which is something that speaks to me but two, he uses that purty blown glass in a way that one wouldn’t typically think of and on top of it, introduces other materials in an extremely creative way, some of which I think most wouldn’t put within a hundred feet of their beautifully blown glass – that material being epoxy.
Caldwell’s use of these additional materials is skillful, smooth and clean, giving his sculptures an almost mechanical or futuristic feel. Sometimes they look as if frozen in time, ready to escape, fly out or perhaps even mold back together. At other times the world is reflected back, fragmented and distorted in the intentionally sunken or puffy shapes. Each piece is intriguing and the technique absolutely lovely.
I was recently reminded of an artist that I adore, Giuseppe Penone. This Italian artist not only creates beautiful works of art but they take me back to my childhood and the fascination I had with the way my grandfather handled trees, fruits and vegetables. Not only was he a master grafter but he would carve into the skin or do things that would intentionally change the growth pattern, fruit bearing ability or the actual surface character of these living things. As a child, I was amazed at his understanding that they wouldn’t die but rather incorporate the change into their flesh and continue on growing.
Guiseppe Penone likes to play with this very idea surrounding growth in nature and the way different materials overcome intentional forces placed upon them. But Penone’s work is not just about our relationship with nature but about time and perception.
In this documentary of the artist during the 2007 exhibition at the Ikon gallery, Penone describes the themes have have inspired his work over this 40 year career.
While I am a huge fan of all of Penone’s work, I am especially intrigued by his more intimate pieces like the steel cast of the artist’s own hand which he placed on a young tree on his property where it remained for 24 years, growing and changing around the hand until finally enveloping it completely.
Penone recently had his first major exhibition in London at the Haunch of Venison’s Burlington Gardens spaces in May 2011. A lovely description of the work of Guiseppe Penone by Ben Tufnell, Haunch of Venison’s Director of Exhibitions:
I’m absolutely in love with anything involving suspended motion, the more obsessively detailed the better. One artist I particularly enjoy is British artist Claire Morgan. What intrigues me about Claire is not only the amazingly beautiful creations she makes out of an insane amount of small suspended objects that can be as difficult to work with as that fluff that flies out of dandelions but that she introduces taxidermy to her pieces which is rather odd – but I love it. The thought of putting things like dead crows or fruit flies into a sculpture can seem grotesque and yet her creations are anything but.
In the artists words:
My work is about our relationship with the rest of nature, explored through notions of change, the passing of time, and the transience of everything around us. For me, creating seemingly solid structures or forms from thousands of individually suspended elements has a direct relation with my experience of these forces. There is a sense of fragility and a lack of solidity that carries through all the sculptures. I feel as if they are somewhere between movement and stillness, and thus in possession of a certain energy.
The way Claire artfully freezes time is one part of what makes these pieces so engaging but I’m especially drawn by these completely fabricated scenes that are inspired by nature and contain elements of form or movement that we are familiar with and yet she puts her own spin on them in a way that pulls them completely out of reality. Like the above image from her 2011 collection titled, “Gone To Seed”, she creates the shape of a dandelion that has begun to release that signature fluff and is in the middle of expansion when a crow falls through the middle, splitting the form in two. The forms are natural and yet the scale and interaction between the crow and the dandelion are completely impossible.
While You Were Sleeping, 2009
Tracing Time, 2007
Here is the End of All Things, 2011
Claire has also begun drawing and exploring the two-dimensional world on paper. She begins by using paper which includes actual residue of the taxidermy process and refers to them as Blood Drawings. Below is Monumental from her 2011 drawings.