Contemporary Glass: Sculptures, Installations, Jewels

Exhibition  /  25 Oct 2012  -  22 Dec 2012
Published: 02.10.2012
Studio GR·20
Graziella Folchini Grassetto
Beate Eismann. Necklace: Untitled, 2009. Silver, stones, enamelled copper. Beate Eismann
Necklace: Untitled, 2009
Silver, stones, enamelled copper
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Studio GR20 celebrates its 30 anniversary with an exhibition about Contemporary Glass. Its use in sculpture, installations and jewellery.

Artist list

Beate Eismann, Iris Nieuwenburg, Evert Nijland, Ruudt Peters, Katja Prins, Andrea Wagner, Maria Grazia Rosin
In ancient cultures, glass was considered to be a noble material - comparable, in jewellery, to gold. An essential difference distinguishes the two: glass is made of siliceous sand, whereas gold is found naturally, in rivers and rocks. A common characteristic of both materials is that they can be transformed according to complex and sometimes mysterious rituals, and even today some techniques are still the subject of study and interpretation. Both glass and gold have extreme plasticity, which allows them to be reduced to tiny fragments or to the thinnest of filaments, of indefinite length.

Differentiating the characteristics, another feature of glass is that it may be transparent, becoming a whole spectrum of the transmutations of light into elusive energy, whereas gold, even in its most diverse expressions, can never lose its typical measurement and weight. Gold, on the surface of flakes or other preconstituted structures, can receive coloured enamels, which are the result of complex glass-working techniques such as cloisonné, champlevé or plique-à-jour; glass is its own polychrome mass, englobing colour in dappled spots, threads, layers, bubbles… even brush strokes. Eternal, gold challenges millennia; condemned to fragility, glass survives in museums and large collections, but is always at risk of destruction.

Glass, very often employed for functional purposes, as indeed is gold, was often used to compose rich decorations, for both mundane and liturgical objects, and, in the hands of capable counterfeiters, was also exploited to imitate gemstones.

Freeing glass from its functional subjection, in order to create objects of pure fantasy, is an expression of art made possible with new techniques. It was perhaps the symbolist culture of the late 19th century to attribute its absolute authenticity in rendering its mythical nature in an idealistic symbiosis with the floral and animal world and, in particular, with the imaginary world of women. The precision of naturalistic representation did not exclude nuances, vague outlines, iconographic excesses, the aim of which was always to express the eternal fleetingness of shapes, their continual transition. In particular, the French culture produced masterpieces in glass-making, pervaded by an all-encompassing idealisation of the organic universe. With thick pastes, etching and corrosion, a complex universe could be created, in which bright colours sink into the obscurity of enveloping leaves, branches, fruits, birds, insects, butterflies and dragonflies, in a constant metamorphosis with human figures. Artists like Daum, Decorchemont, Argy-Rousseau and Walter, using the technique of pâte de verre, achieved sculptural effects with glassy masses, in which they plumbed the depths, to reach the extreme indefinition of forms and an undecipherable mix of colours.

The iconographic excess of French glass was swept away by the avant-garde of the early 20th century, which privileged the value of form in its absolute definition. It was then the Venetian culture which took on the role of protagonist in the creation of glass, thus returning to its ancient splendour: the new artistic language enhanced the lightness, transparency and abstraction of forms. Workshops for artistic production came into being, in which great glass-makers and other artists favoured the visual scene: the Fucina degli Angeli (The Angels' Forge) was a place and an artistic movement founded by Egidio Costantini, which combined the glass-making techniques of the best artists of contemporary art in the 20th century, including artists of the stature of Picasso, Ernst, Braque, Cocteau, Calder, Fontana and Tobey.

Maria Grazia Rosin combines lightness, which the Venetian techniques guarantee, with an imagination rich in influences from both artistic trends such as Informal Art and Pop Art, without excluding certain machinery of Kinetic Art, and design, comic strips, or the world of science fiction impregnated with literature.
Rosin's is an oniric world, extraterrestrial, perhaps emerging from the ocean depths, with sinuous, serpentine, thread-like forms, retractile or dangerously enveloping modules: these are not octopuses or algae, but micro-organisms rendered gigantic by some kind of disorder, always suspended in a liquid environment or an aerial space, apparently supported by mobile fibres which also become an integral part of the work, but affected by swellings like sacs, from which peduncles extend, flowering with buboes and excrescences. A universe under the microscope, perhaps symptoms of degenerative alterations, or, conversely, a marvellous testimony of new living beings in their complex phases of germination. With her mobile installations in glass, Rosin works on the art of sculpture, of which Art Nouveau in France was the sublime manifestation, with the extreme lightness of contemporary Venetian techniques. In the ancient magic of blown glass, she creates empty, transparent, luminous bodies, the clear-cut identity of which is not confined to burnishing with silver or gold, fluid dabs or brush strokes.

In the journey from sculpture to jewellery, which also vaunts ancient traditions in glass, the present selection has privileged artists who are both innovative and expert, and who work not only with metals but also glass. It is striking how their common choice of contained, rigorous forms, in which predilection moves towards non-colour, black and white, reducing it to the mere definition of a simplified project. 

The new research field of Iris Nieuwenburg is surprising. She has abandoned neo-Baroque memorialism, the exuberant colours of lacquers which re-invented fantastic lampshades, gilt frames and opulent interiors. She now works on imitating gemstones, exalting their facets although denying them the effects of their luminous refraction with a coating of white enamel, like a funereal veil which, nevertheless, highlights the geometry of cut glass. 

Evert Nijland
has also recently produced a series of marvellous works in glass called “Venezia”, a monument to the Renaissance and Baroque forms in a measured interpretation. At the same time, he has intensified the reduction of figures, facing the naturalistic theme in a realistic but intensely pure search. He concentrates on the theme of flowers, expressing great pleasure in the evolution of their pale petals, the transparency of which reveals the base of a piece of old, rough wood, its support and frame, releasing a painful feeling of transience. 

Katja Prins'attention also turns to nature and, in the past, in the series “Machines Are Us”, with its refined mechanical elaborations of silver and synthetic materials, she had always transformed rigid, complex technological formulations into floral solutions. In recent works, she highlights interest in abstract forms, always hovering between vitality and methodology. But the addition of milky white glass confirms a world of order and calm beauty at the same time. The artist's technological intentions are still interesting: her whites and blacks are produced by materials such as coral or haematite - not in their natural form, but reduced to powders which are suitable for preparing smooth, perfect pastes, in which synthetic resins are mixed with the original materials. The uniform, compact substances which highlight abstract forms find a sensual contrast in the contribution of glass which, in its vague organic modulations, almost appears as an irregular baroque pearl. 

The symbolism of Ruudt Peters is impregnated with naturalism, and this artist treats metaphysical themes in his extraordinary works entitled “Sephiroth”, interpretations of ancient religious beliefs. All the pieces always have a load-bearing structure, a silver grid, in which evolutions, spirals, curls and tangles of glass are interwoven. The rigid spectrum appears to be the centre of reference of sensitive, perceptive and emotional contributions from a nature containing fantastic forms which can be measured with discriminating laws suitable for defining theosophic theories. The irregular universe of free, translucid formulations seems to become integrated in the discipline of severe rules: the norm, in its absolute clarity, makes blown glass symbolic. 

Beate Eismann, in her enamel jewellery, works not on fantasy figures but on the richness of many varieties of signs. Writing seems to emerge irregularly from glassy materials layered on metals, the tiniest deformations of which express messages and communications. These traces are mysterious incunabula to be deciphered, while the fascination of the fine materials, in their sober nuances, are remarkable for that moderation of the colour range of whites or pale blues, rigorously kept to minimum, almost imperceptible modulations. 

The work of Andrea Wagner does not aspire to simplification. In her series called “The Architect Who Faced His Jardin Intérieur”, she reveals a search for psychological introspection, symbolised by many containers, often in white Chinese porcelain and vaguely geometrical. These accumulate a variety of corpuscles, nuclei of the sedimented memories from which the artist draws her interpretations and revelations. The material is muddled, in spite of its extraordinary polychromicity. The tiny grains of transparent glass seem to be the depositaries of the unconscious impulses of the id, only apparently easy to interpret. But, in their confused, overlapping planes, they reveal the difficulty of achieving knowledge through specific analysis. This myriad of globules, many transparent, others obscure, remains mysterious, defending the sacrality of the twists and turns of memory, which perhaps can only be interpreted in fantasy literature or mythological symbology. 

Graziella Folchini Grassetto


You are kindly invited to the Opening: Thursday, October 25 2012 – 6.00 p.m. 

Opening times: 4.00 – 7.30 p.m.

This exhibition will commemorates the 30 years of Studio.GR.20.
Iris Nieuwenbug. Brooch: White Germinate, 2012. Silver, lacquer, metal toy punched flower, molded faceted gemstone, ground glass. Series Sakura volume 1. Iris Nieuwenbug
Brooch: White Germinate, 2012
Silver, lacquer, metal toy punched flower, molded faceted gemstone, ground glass
Series Sakura volume 1
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Evert Nijland. Brooch: Flower 2, 2012. Wood, glass. Series Ornament. Evert Nijland
Brooch: Flower 2, 2012
Wood, glass
Series Ornament
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Ruudt Peters. Brooch: Thanos, 2006. Silver, glass. Serie Sephiroth. Ruudt Peters
Brooch: Thanos, 2006
Silver, glass
Serie Sephiroth
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Katja Prins. Necklace: Inter-Act, 2011. Silver, reconstructed onyx and coral, glass. Katja Prins
Necklace: Inter-Act, 2011
Silver, reconstructed onyx and coral, glass
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Andrea Wagner. Brooch: Corso Del Corsage, 2010. Silver, bone china porcelain, glass, polyester, synthetic resin. Andrea Wagner
Brooch: Corso Del Corsage, 2010
Silver, bone china porcelain, glass, polyester, synthetic resin
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Maria Grazia Rosin. Sculpture: ICE-viruX, 2009. Hand blown sculptures, yellow opaline glass, bluino, silver leaf, mirrored. Master blower Sergio Tiozzo. Maria Grazia Rosin
Sculpture: ICE-viruX, 2009
Hand blown sculptures, yellow opaline glass, bluino, silver leaf, mirrored
Master blower Sergio Tiozzo
© By the author. Read Copyright.