I have always been fascinated by glass objects. Roman glass objects in museums, for example, could be 2,000 years old, but already they have attained a high level of sophistication. The glass could have been cast or blown, and it came in a variety of shapes and colours. Now, the one thing that is very special about glass is that it allows light to pass through, and the light works its magic in it so that the objects sparkle and glow like gems. Indeed, the Romans have used glass to make jewellery besides utensils.
Fast forward to the 21 st Century, and huge quantities of useful objects in glass are made by industrial processes, yet there are some that serve only an artistic purpose, and are still made by hand. The latter are often associated with the Studio Glass movement originated in America in the 1950s, which emphasised on the artist as designer and maker and focused on the making of one-of-a-kind objects. Often working independently with a small glass furnace in a studio, the artist produces art from glass using the age old method of casting and blowing, alongside modern techniques, with much richer colour, texture and shape. Such works can be amazing.
Spurring New Growth
Adorning the tranquil reading room in the CapitaLand Institute of Management and Business (CLIMB) is one such enchanting glass installation. Specially commissioned by CapitaLand, it is created by Australian artist B. Jane Cowie, and is titled “New Growth”. Here, springing up from a water feature, are twenty glass flowers supported on polished stainless steel rods. They are of different heights and sizes, and all reaching upward. The overall effect is one of vitality, much befitting the context of CLIMB, where CapitaLand officers gather to learn and grow.
We all learn and grow, and sometimes that process can be touching. Such is the case of Jane’s learning to become a glass artist:
“After college I decided to travel. With a one way ticket to Europe I set off to see the world. While traveling around and doing itinerate odd jobs I decided that I should focus. I started by contacting a number of glass artists to see if I could work with them as a volunteer assistant, to learn more about glass and art. And then I saw hot glass for the first time, immediately fell in love and knew that is what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.”
Shaping Glassy Wonders
Since then, Jane has been working with glass for over 20 years and has developed competent technical skills and an intimate understanding of glass making techniques and applications. This is most evident in the creation of each of the funnel shape latticed flowers of New Growth. She explains the process:
“It is built up with layers of hot glass. I am sitting at the glassmaker’s bench ready to receive the hot glass on the tip of the punty (a metal rod). I turn the punty so as to pull and stretch the glass to the right diameter as each layer is added to my shape, cools and stiffen. I need to constantly re-heat the glass in the glory hole (furnace) otherwise the glass will cool too quickly and break. But the temperature must not be too high or it can collapse and be mishaped.”
Spawning Sparkling Beauties
The flowers are green, salmon, pink, clear, or a combination of colours. What is very beautiful is that the colours are not even, the effect being somewhat “water-colour” like . Furthermore, the texture varies: there are blossoms that are matt and tranluscent; others that are smooth, transparent and glittery. Seen as a whole, they complement and contrast with one another, offering a most delicious visual feast.
“ Conceptually, glass offers contradictions of beauty and danger, hot and cold, flowing fluid and rigid mass. For me glass symbolises life – the strength, fragility and wonder of life.” Jane shares. And I am sure a lot of us will agree.
Next time when you are at CLIMB, do take a good look at New Growth. It is best seen from different angles when one moves round it. The stainless steel stems and glass flowers overlap in ever changing patterns. Close examination is a must for us to appreciate all its subtleties – what a jewel!
This article is contributed by CapitaLand Chief of Art Management, Francis Wong Hooe Wai