Sunday, 4 December 2011


Oxblood and White Persian Set
Halcyon Gallery 

This gallery has opened with a spectacular show.  Dale Chihuly may not be a household name but his work has probably been seen by more people in London than any of the other works I’ve featured. For example, millions of visitors walking through the grand entrance hall of the V&A Museum will have encountered his breath-taking 27-foot high glass chandelier, specially commissioned for an exhibition of his work there in 2001.

And then in 2005 there was Gardens of Glass  at the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew.  Boats floating on the lakes were filled with glass sculptures, and inside the greenhouses the exotic shapes and colours of growing plants and trees found they had rivals: the beds were pierced with Chihuly’s fantastical forms  bursting with every imaginable colour. Gardens of Glass was seen by 860,000 people.

This Chijuly exhibition is housed in Halcyon's new gallery, one of the most distinguished buildings in one of London's major shopping areas. It was designed as an art gallery in 1911 and now Chihuly's work sits in a brand new contemporary art space which incorporates original architectural features, such as magnificent curled stairways and a delicious Mezzanine area. It's an event to savour. Oxblood and White Persian Set (above) is but one of dozens of works found on  three floors. It appears to dance over the table top. It’s as light as a butterfly and hard as rock.

Mille Fiore (detail) 
Mille Fiore, which stands alone on the Mezzanine floor, is a site-specific work, a 24-foot long garden of glass. The image you see here is of but a small section. You walk round the garden and with each step some new explosion of colour or shape comes into focus.One visitor remarked that if the work were set in granite in order to make a shallow pool, the reflections would give the piece yet another stunning dimension.

Chihuly is said to have revolutionised how glass is perceived as an art form. He himself says ‘I'm pushing the boundaries of the medium as far as they can go in terms of scale and new techniques ...over time I developed the most organic, natural way of working with glass, using the fewest number of tools that I could. The glass looks as if it has come from nature. I don't really know where the ideas come from'.
Minimalist Chihuly’s work is not. For some his art is too Gothic and overwrought. Chihuly himself is open and inclusive ‘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’. 

The art critic and broadcaster Matthew Collings comments in the catalogue, ‘The mood of positive energy in Chihuly’s sculptures leaves no room for sneers or nihilism, nor for chin-stroking philosophising, or airy spirituality; in fact their sheer exuberant, material joyfulness makes them unlike much else that is considered centre-stage in contemporary art.’

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