2 Glass Artists: 2 Sculptors

13 Nov 2011 in Aberdeen City & Shire, Highland, Showcase, Visual Arts & Crafts

Christine Gunn reports on a meeting of glass and metal at Caithness Horizons

MENTION glass and most folk think first of window panes, drinking vessels, or dinky ornaments – things to be handled gingerly.

FOR many, the word ‘sculpture’ still brings to mind half-clad alabaster statues staring into infinity. Four artists currently engaged in a residency based jointly at North Lands Creative Glass [NLCG] and the Scottish Sculpture Workshop [SSW] give the lie to all preconceptions.

Sculptors Clare Flatley and Kate Hobby, and glass artists Katya Filmus and Lisa Anne Bate, gave presentations last week at Caithness Horizons in Thurso, showing slides from their back catalogues of work as well as introducing the local audience to work-in-progress for a Metal and Glass Casting residency offered this year by the two Caithness and Aberdeenshire arts organisations.

Katya Filmus mixing plaster

Katya Filmus mixing plaster

The eight week residency is an opportunity to create new work and to collaborate with other artists while also learning new techniques in casting.  It also poses a huge challenge for participants, not least travelling between the two venues while having to absorb entirely new skills and techniques for working in media they are unfamiliar with.

Undaunted by the sheer mountain of new information to be taken on board, all four artists have already produced experimental pieces, and are clearly buzzing with new ideas.

Clare Flatley & Kate Hobby learning about glass with NLCG technician Michael Bullen

Clare Flatley & Kate Hobby learning about glass with NLCG technician Michael Bullen

Originally from Israel, Katya Filmus began her career with figurative sculpture, working under a Russian tutor, and has since experimented with a wide range of media, including Raku pottery, porcelain fixtures and latex.

For a time in Jerusalem she designed a range of glass products for manufacture, and has been commissioned by Glenfiddich distillery for a major glass casting project which will see a series of large cast stags’ heads installed in 21 airports around the world.

During her presentation she described her fascination with exploring the capacity of work in glass to reflect ‘positive’ and ‘negative’ facets of an object in three dimensions, as well as how autobiography often inspires ideas for pieces.

Clare Flatley is a new graduate.  As an undergraduate she had been intrigued by process and materials, and by the absorbant and reflective qualities of materials and surfaces.  The properties of the colour black along with the idea of anti-matter has provoked a series of works to develop textures and forms that are ‘chaotic’, while also very beautiful.

Doorways and portals provide a metaphor to explore the duality of surface.  Like Katya Filmus, the antithetical relationship between ‘front’ and ‘back’ provides for Clare a dimension to be explored in glass and metal.

Lisa Anne Bate constructing her mould

Lisa Anne Bate constructing her mould

Lisa Anne Bate also wants to stretch form to experiment with scientific ideas.  Microscopic life and minerals have inspired the creation of sculptural shapes and connected elements – often based on everyday objects – to suggest a visualization of new ‘species’.

Often working on a small scale, the artist likes to create sculpture that isn’t static:  she has used magnets to provide connection between glass and metal, and to make elements move.  Resulting forms often seem sinister and unsettling, causing the viewer to look again.

A chance opportunity to pour iron provided the catalyst for a change in artistic direction for Sussex-based sculptor Kate Hobby.  Now used to working with metal on a large scale, Kate described how overwhelming it has been to engage with a whole new medium: glass.

The residency is providing her with the space and the peace to develop new ideas, and – building out from a woven basket-form piece cast recently in bronze, her intention is to develop a weaving ‘loom’ sculpture during her time in Lumsden and Caithness.

Over the years NLCG has brought many artists from around the globe to its Lybster studios, and its reputation as a centre of excellence for the spectrum of glass-working continues to grow.  Over the past three years, visitors to Caithness Horizons have been given privileged insight into the imaginative, technical and physical challenges of the medium, and treated to slideshows of images that merely hint at the multiplicity of colour, texture, form and thematic ambition of artefacts produced by extremely gifted residency artists.

The current residency continues the trend of excellence, with the added interest of asking artists to stretch themselves by combining glass and metal casting.  NLCG and SSW are to be congratulated on maintaining what has become a very rare thing in the arts:  a commitment to providing artists with the time, space and resources to develop new skills and produce truly original art.

Christine Gunn is the Education & Community Officer at Caithness Horizons.

© Christine Gunn, 2011