11 November 2014

Tuesday is drawing day - Glass gallery at V&A

Last week's "drawing in museums" excursion was to the glass gallery at the V&A. Looking back on the experience, I'm keen to learn more about glassmaking techniques and history ... and to "possess" more glass by drawing it.
The gallery is up the marble stairs and through the Architecture section

Glass of all eras and types - clear stuff ...

... and coloured (the round vase is a longstanding favourite of mine)

... and Oh So Modern
The glass gallery has the advantage of having various places to sit, if you can't find a sketching stool (there is a rack between China and Japan, in the ground floor corridor) and settled down in front of "Belfast after Polliauolo" [a most puzzling title*] by Clifford Rainey, 1981 -
After an hour of measuring and erasing and remeasuring and checking with little tryout sketches, the torso and arms still weren't quite right -
 What drew me to the piece were the rusty arrows and the refractions within the glass -
The silence of the gallery was broken by a guided tour - and the guide was very informative about Scandinavian glass, until her voice was drowned by hordes of early-teen schoolchildren (actually they weren't that boisterous) -
Another hour and I'd put in the arrows and figured out what was happening with the rocks in the foreground - some had spikes through them -
After the serious work, it was time to play with colours -
The tour guide had pointed out this sand-cast piece, by Bertil Vallein - it rests on a slab of granite, has interesting inclusions, and is called Destination X -
 Elsewhere in the gallery are these jellyfish  -
Steffen Dam's jellyfish
That photo tries to make an asset of the ubiquitous reflections ... that's one aspect of glass, it's reflective qualities.

Amazing shadow cast by this one -
Another aspect of glass is its transparency or opacity, whether light passes through or casts shadows. An interesting material - there is some debate about whether it's a solid or a supercooled liquid. I can't get my head round that one, but the explanation here was at least readable!

* shedding some light on the title of the St Sebastian piece; from an article by Liam Kelley, 1987 -

"This oxidation of metal and the development over time of a patina of verdigris on surface underlines the concept of metamorphosis that is at the essence of his art making.  The column becomes “St Sebastian or Belfast after Pallaiuolo” broken like a rock rift – a sacred icon which then is replaced by an icon of contemporary international currency – the coke bottle.  The drums of this ‘coke’ column, pierced by rusting arrows, eventually fall and disintegrate and we are back to the fragment and the sands of time – glass as material and idea.  
With St Sebastian Rainey’s art becomes more autobiographical; his sculptures doubly coded.  
    It is almost impossible to flick through any standard history of Renaissance art without turning up a St Sebastian figure; an image of martyrdom and suffering.  For Rainey it is an image from his own past by way of the image bank of art history.  Art history was the main source of experiencing art in Belfast before he was shocked by the ‘live’ contemporary art of London and later America.  Rainey claims he was thinking more about art and the concept of time than politics in this important piece.  The head and shoulders are highly polished and pristine, looking to the future while the rougher rust impregnated body is rooted in the past.  
    Slicing the body and slightly displacing the parts carries over form the way in which an antique column naturally disintegrates with time i.e. along the line of weakness between each column drum.  Slicing is also a practical device for easier casting since to cast a large figurative piece would be very difficult.  Craft serving an idea again. "

1 comment:

Stitchinscience said...

I love that work by Steffen Dam. I'm drawn to it wherever I see it on display.