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A garden of glass

Post Time:Jul 22,2013Classify:Industry NewsView:331

MONTREAL A veritable garden of glass has bloomed within the walls of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.


It's the first major Canadian museum show by landmark American artist Dale Chihuly, who has brought his unique glass creations to the downtown Montreal location until Oct. 20.


Chihuly is renowned worldwide for revolutionizing the studio glass movement and elevating it to fine art.


Diane Charbonneau, curator of Chihuly: Utterly Breathtaking, says the show is a natural fit given the museum's expanding decorative arts collection and previous exhibitions, such as 2009's celebration of the works of Louis Comfort Tiffany.


Charbonneau acknowledged that some people had called Chihuly a modern Tiffany, but pointed out the comparison has its limits when examining the two men's approach to working with glass.


"There are some connections to make between him and Tiffany, but Tiffany stuck with it as an object while Chihuly explores it as an art form."


Chihuly brought glass to a different level, first through sculpture and then through installation.


"That's where maybe he's the most innovative," she said. "He's the only one doing it and doing it successfully."


Nature is key to his inspiration, be it lush Washington State where he grew up or his mother's garden.


"It's always an interpretation, never a real-life rendering," notes Charbonneau for the benefit of anyone expecting still life with flowers. "It's always more of an abstract interpretation of nature."


Visitors get their first look at the monumental creations even before they walk through the doors of the museum's Michael and Renata Hornstein Pavillion on Sherbrooke Street West.


"Sun," a round tower five metres in diameter, shines from the front steps and casts rays through tendrils in primary colours.


It's a prime example of how intricately the artworks are constructed.


"The sun has 1,200 elements," Charbonneau said. It took four days to set up and is one of the most popular pieces.


"Everyone wants to keep it," she said of museum staff with a laugh.


Once inside, the exhibits form an immersive environment starting with the Turquoise Reeds, which are dozens of spear-shaped forms reaching up from the trunks of salvaged red cedar.


Then it's on to one of Chihuly's most popular works, the Persian Ceiling, which consists of shapes and forms in vivid colours arranged over plates of glass.


Young and old museum visitors linger in the room, bathed in a kaleidoscope of colour from the panes set into the ceiling. Some lie down on beanbag-type chairs and stare upward. One woman visitor pirouettes around the room to get a better look on one day.


The spectacle continues through several other environments.


Blown glass towers and chandeliers resembling stalagmites and stalactites, boats looking like horns of plenty and a forest that Chihuly created using 300 colours of glass mark the journey through the rest of the show.


The forest, one of Charbonneau's favourite pieces, can be particularly surprising because the use of reflective panels around it gives it a depth that makes it look more vast than it actually is.


Charbonneau remembers being swept away when she first saw the forest in Chihuly's studio as the exhibit was coming together.


"I felt so touched by seeing it," she said.


The show also contains some pieces created — and recreated — especially for the Montreal exhibit.


The Persian Colonnade shows Chihuly's colourful interpretation of flowers and Mille Fiori continues that theme, looking like an enchanted garden. The concept is explored further in Glass Forest No. 6, created using blown glass filled with argon gas and neon.


The Ruby Pineapple recreates an exquisite chandelier Chihuly created with French glass-blowers in 1997. The original was lost when the ship carrying it from France to Seattle was hit by a severe mid-Atlantic storm and the crate with the artifact was swept overboard.


Charbonneau said Chihuly was particularly keen to do a new version of the pineapple for Montreal because he thought it appropriate that a piece originally created in France be reborn in Canada's mainly French-speaking city.


It was a tricky process because the original company where the mould was made had closed years ago. One of the project managers went to France to try to locate the mould, which was based on a lamp. The closest they came was a casting discovered in the United States.


Then it was a matter of getting the colour just right because Charbonneau points out red is one of the trickiest hues to deal with in glasswork.


"It was interesting and intensive work because you have to remember the only thing left was photos of the chandelier and also the collective memory," Charbonneau said.


"Some of the technicians and glass-blowers were in France then so they had to put their energy together to recreate the chandelier."


It took six trucks to bring the approximately 10,000 pieces to make the artifacts in the show to Montreal from Chihuly's base in Seattle. A team worked 10 days to set up everything.


Every installation has a different technique and reflects Chihuly's love of colours.


"He's not afraid," Charbonneau said. "He really likes contrasts."


Chihuly, who has been based in Seattle since the mid-1980s, has seen his creations in more than 200 museums around the world, including New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.


Charbonneau described him as a "man of his time" who soaked up the influences of a variety of art movements and creators such as Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock in the 1950s, '60s and '70s as he came of age.


Severe accidents, one in a car crash and another while surfing, cost him an eye and limited his movement, but he manages to communicate his vision as he works with talented teams of artisans to bring the creations to life.


Charbonneau advises visitors to study the nine environments — eight indoors plus the sun outside — as they pass through and let the creativity sweep over them.


"People have to play a bit," she said, noting the objects in the galleries are complemented by the rooms themselves and the lighting so they fill the space more than people realize at first.


"Everything in a way is so highly calculated, but it makes one be totally immersed in his work," she said. "You really get a sense of his world."



Source: http://www.thespec.com/living-story/3901248-a-gardAuthor: shangyi

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