glasssculpture

In the crazy whirly moments before we left for our road trip / holiday last year I managed to prepare some pocket lens prototypes. They needed to come with! To be tested in new environments!

Pocket Lenses developed over years. They have become an analogue synonym of our digitally engaged society.

Lenses were a natural conclusion to the work I do. Sculpting solid (and sometimes blown) glass by grinding and polishing I invoke light to do crazy things. Light is all around us. It is the substance (or wave) that informs us of our surrounding, bouncing off everything we see.

Some light is also emitted, such as the screen you are reading this on – looking into a “window”. Looking through glass. Looking beyond the surface…

Before I get carried away by the etherial and profound lets get back to the Pocket Lenses.

One of my first iterations on the theme of looking and being seen predated smart phones. Mask and Mask Blue questioned the experience of looking through the “mask lens” and being seen looking through the “mask lens”. This was a very intentional play to engage the spectator in becoming an active part of these sculptures.

Steel handles UV-bonded on the sides of the masks encouraged the viewer to lift the sculpture off of the stand. Once the mask is held to your face to peer through your arms and elbows complete the suggested shape; to complete the sculptural concept by uniting the participant with the object and transforming these into the “full picture” – which in turn is what the surrounding spectators see and experience.

More than ten years later the world has evolved into an ever more inter-connected landscape in which individuals are peering into hand held glass lenses, looking at the world and showing the world their perspective, digitally. 

Pocket Lenses are the next generation of interactive sculptural interventions, bringing the here and now closer to your immediate experience.

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It is that time of year again when one checks the mailbox more regularly. Problem is that you find all those bills first and then… with great anticipation the latest copy of New Glass Review is there!

Although Susie J. Silbert (curator of Modern and Contemporary Glass at the Corning Museum of Glass) sent me a congratulatory letter in January the excitement to have a hard copy in your hand is unprecedented. I didn’t know which work got selected.

Schiesheim Session made it! Thank you so much! It is an honor and privilege to be selected for such a prestigious publication which annually informs global trends in art and sculpture made with glass in its myriad forms, shapes, techniques and narrative.

It is also a proud moment to represent South Africa but also Africa on an international platform. I hope to see more voices participating and challenge global trends with our own flavor of glass.

A big thank you goes out to Samuel Weisenborn for allowing me to hammer, drill, cut, saw, grind and polish in his kick ass studio and workshop in Schiesheim, Germany to make this wonderful and fun sculpture!

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Making art has always been a journey for me. Although sketches are made, plans scribbled on paper and maps drawn up with inklings of the destination, it is the problem solving and decisions taken on the way that give meaning to my endeavor.

Then the destination is reached…
This is the moment where the sculpture starts to converse on its own, the birth of an idea in a universal language.

Current sculptures and series’ such as Rock View, Silverstone, Grids, Guardians, etc. are all attempts at understanding and exploring the idea of “being human”.

I love imagination and finding the familiar in odd places. As a youngster I used to look up at the clouds and see all kinds of different things in them. What really amazed me was when your gaze left the clouds and returned a few seconds later how much of the previous illusion has changed, that the old man’s face now resembles a grinning crocodile…

Taking stock on my current trajectory I’m noticing myself still exploring these imaginative avenues. Is this not a truly human trait? The pure arrogance! To identify yourself in the detritus of the universe? Even on Mars we have found faces resembling our human identity and given nebulas names such as “Crab” and “Horse Head”. Are these not the places where we identify our gods, within the planets, the sun and the moon?

This must be a sign that we are conscious beings, that we have an imagination and are different to the “other animals” on this pale blue dot. Is this not the fertile ground which birthed our spiritual sensibilities?

Could this trait also be responsible for the basic narrative we call art? Seeing a likeliness of ourselves in a large rock or a tree must have given rise to spirituality, to religion. We are not separate but part of the larger picture. We are part of the universe!

Perception! The pinprick hole of our pupil sucks up all this electromagnetic radiation of the “visible” spectrum. These illusive particles and waves radiate from everything around us. How can this tiny hole in our eye reveal so much if only a tiny fragment of this radiated energy stimulates our perceptive nerves?

There is so much visual information and each individual has their own perspective. My sculptures are an attempt to discern this diversity of views. I am searching for a way to articulate through experience and immediacy that moment which gave rise to the origins of the inquisitive and conscious woman, child and man.

The lens metaphor has and still is the main prerogative to explore this notion of immediacy and individual perspectives of whom we are and our affinity to the world around us.

My sculptural exploits are reaching back to the dawn of man and how this narrative still affects us today, our human nature… with a glassy twist. 

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“It seems obvious that something connects between the eyes and the thing being viewed. That something must be light. But does the light come from the eyes, or from the object under scrutiny, or from someplace else?”
The Story of Light, Ben Bova, 2001 – Light and Vision, p.125

Bending Light
an Exhibition Exploring Photons with Kleonicki Vanos and Lothar Böttcher

NWU Art Gallery, Botanical Gardens
01 -22 September 2016

Consciousness is not sharply defined, but fades into sub-consciousness . We are not uniformly sensitive to the illusions of light yet context matters and our perception of it affects our mind, body, and soul. We process life as we perceive it and our perceptions can change, which is reason enough to celebrate who we are.

By Bending Light, both artists invite the viewer to explore variations on perception, invoking a moment of immediacy.

Kleonicki uses light as a metaphorical brush, literally painting with light in her photographic images.

Lothar sculpturally transforms glass into objects and portals, enticing the spectator to come closer and “observe” the world through his sculptures.

Mutually collaborating on the subject of transforming the familiar arrangement of photons into new narratives these vibrant artists intend to illuminate our view of the world and our place in it.

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Look around you. Grids are everywhere. Even in nature grids appear. The structural lines of the veins on your hand, the folds and lines on your palm, they are everywhere like intersecting pathways.

A grid gives structure to space. Consisting of lines it separates planes into blocks. Lines are fundamental to the existence of a grid, but they must cross another. Some lines are longer others broader but it is this crossing of the lines that constitutes a grid.

Some grids are structured, mathematically and perpendicular. Take a map of the city or place you live in, look at these forever connecting lines which make up the roads, streets and borders of your environment.

Others seem random and organic such as the neurones and synapses in our brains or the ebb and flow in a mangrove swamp.

Ultimately these lines, wherever they find themselves, are connected.

An ongoing theme in my work has been the large optical crystal Grid Sculptures. A grid pattern is cut into the base of these large and heavy blocks, adding a rigid, formal, almost quantifiable structure into the narrative. 
Thereafter the flat sided cube is carved up, often with impulsively determined facets or, quite recently, with an underlying geometric structure. I allow these variants to manifest themselves.

The grid already determines rigidity and mathematical quantifiable value. These straight lines conform to an imposed intervention, something that is not quite from nature.

Then the carving starts. First with lines drawn onto the cube then with a saw to remove larger chunks. A rough diamond cup-disk is used thereafter to shape and hew the sculpture into desired curves and facets. It is with my hands, eyes and tools that the sculpture takes shape.

During the process which takes several days of meticulous and repetitive labour, scouring the surface with ever finer gritts, the interior emerges.

It is this magic of the hard transparent material I am after. The initial matt and rough cuts don’t tell me much of what light will do but it is towards the end of the process when, after an almost meditative sojourn the spirit of my endeavour emerges.

I am attempting to impose an organic distortion on the rigid structural set of rules, this predetermined grid we deal and often conform with. I am trying to find another way of seeing things.

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The Glass Art Society conference took place in Corning this year. I was fortunate to attend, met many old friends and made many new ones. From the moment I arrived there was an invisible energy permeating through the air. Everywhere one found yourself there was bound to be somebody connected to creative glass ready to share some friendly words on where you’re from, what you do and more.

Day one started as a pre-conference event, a round table discussion on education and the roll history of glass plays in current curricula. Former board members, critics, historians, curators, department heads, educators, professors, artists, schools, students, experts and even collectors joined in the discussion. Afterwards we got a behind the scenes tour of the Rakow Research Library. I would wager that most answers to glass related questions can be found here!

I forgot to mention, earlier on day one Lino Tagliapietra was making glass at the Museum hot shop amphitheatre. The Maestro was hands-on throughout, constantly keeping his glass under control, from choosing the canes laid out to pulling and twisting of the dinosaur’s neck. Amazing!

As the round table discussion was a pre-conference event, day two was actually the first day of the conference. The welcoming reception took place at The Rockwell Museum with a beautiful setting overlooking the town of Corning from the top floor balcony. The conference started with a bang!

The days were filled to the brim fromThursday till Saturday. There were talks and demos, in the hot shops, cold shops, lamp working studios, and even lec-mos (hybrid for lecture-demos) in the town’s movie theatres. Panel discussions at Corning Headquarters and the Corning High School auditorium. Evening events in town with the Crystal City Stroll where public light sculptures were exhibited all around town and galleries showed cutting edge contemporary art. Silent and live auctions with works donated by artists help fund GAS.

On Saturday the closing party highlight event, the Glass Fashion Show curated by Lorna Doneffer got everybody fired up and shaking bootie on the dance floor. It was almost sad to say goodbye that night.

Sunday was my first opportunity to walk through the museum, slowly. I spent two days traversing the expansive display of where glass came from, how it got here and where it might take us next.

Monday evening was laundry night and Tuesday morning it was off to New York City…

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