All photography by Caitlin Sinclair.
It’s the inaugural exhibition for the recently-opened New Bond Street branch of the Halcyon Gallery, and they’re fortunate to have their high ceilings and giant white beams interspersed with so many bright glass works from Dale Chihuly. The formality of the vast, multi-storeyed space, coupled with the security guards scattered about, seems at odds with the warmth Chihuly’s pieces emanate.
The installations might be more interesting to explore in an environment where the viewer can appreciate how it’s possible for them to grow organically in or out of spaces, such as when his pieces were placed throughout the Venetian Canals in 1996, or in the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in 2005. However, it is a selling exhibition after all, and it’s possible to make do with the Torchlight Chandelier on Park Lane, illuminated nightly.
Scale is key, and where Chihuly is concerned, bigger is better. His strawlike Gold and Quartz Two Tier Chandelier can be viewed from the ground and basement gallery levels –its enormity sends shivers as we question the many glass pieces forming it and wonder at its weight. The 24-foot-long Mille Fiori is another highlight, a glass garden of piercing red growths and large bulbs. It’s intriguing to consider from different angles, and one can only imagine the fun which Chihuly’s team must have had in ‘planting’ it.
The multitude of shapes and colours on display are incredible, from baskets, to shells, flowers, tentacles, and striped patterns. They demand a consideration of the sometimes transparent, sometimes opaque glass, its texture, and the technique with which the pieces are produced.
Chihuly describes the magic inherent in the creation process: One of the most important inspirations for me is the glass itself, the glass blowing process, this wondrous event of blowing human air down a blowpipe and having this form appear. I’m obsessed with color – never saw one I didn’t like.
In 1968, Chihuly worked at the Venini glass factory, where he learned about the collaborative process glass blowers use –it’s an ancient tradition he continues to use in his own studio today. Here, we can easily appreciate the rich artistic results produced by a group of creative minds working together conceptually and in practice.
Throughout the exhibition a balance is at work between the bold colours and shapes of the pieces, and the fragility of the glass medium, which creates a sense of uneasy playfulness. Discover it for yourself – the Chihuly exhibition is on until 31 March 2012.
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