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Glasstress: White Light / White Heat - Contemporary artists and glass at the Wallace Collection
Miroslaw Balka, 6 x (138 x 47 x 10), 2013. Glass, 6 x (138 x 47 x 10). Courtesy of White Cube, London, Berengo Studio, Venezia.
LONDON.- In a unique collaboration between the Berengo Studio (Venice), Venice Projects (Venice), London College of Fashion and the Wallace Collection (London), Glasstress: White Light/White Heat presents the newly commissioned work of some of today’s most important contemporary artists, most of whom are working in glass for the first time.

The exhibition builds on the success of two previous Venice Art Biennale Glasstress shows (2009, 2011), but this is the first time that the work has toured to the UK. The Venice exhibition saw sixty-five artists responding to the theme of light and heat, the components of fire, the fundamental elements involved in the formation of the universe and also the essence of glassblowing. Light is integral to our perception of glass, while heat is required to shape it.

Adriano Berengo, President of Berengo Studio, is celebrating 20 years of working with artists this year. The studio was founded in Murano in 1989, with the first works created in collaboration with artists in 1993, inspired largely by Peggy Guggenheim’s fascination in the artistic possibilities of glass. Guggenheim encouraged modernist artists like Kokoschka, Picasso, Braque, Chagall and Max Ernst, to experiment with Venetian glass, feeling that it shouldn’t be relegated to the purely decorative. With the Glasstress shows he is offering a selection of contemporary artists the chance to explore this fascinating medium.

Boudicca’s work is a ghost-like, flickering projection of a walking, naked body, refracted through a flattened piece of glass. “Outside” responds to the idea of the multiple identities that we now carry with us, as we are reflected and refracted through multimedia and augmented or enhanced reality, caught between the real and the virtual worlds.

Hussein Chalayan’s work is a cast to prop the upper body in a position for listening to someone else. Entitled “Frozen Monologue”, it refers to the fact that we spend too much of our lives not actually communicating, but listening to or delivering monologues. “We spend half our lives listening to other people”, says Chalayan. “We can become prisoners of others’ endless need to talk about themselves. As a result there is a culture of unfulfilled relationships emerging as dialogues are being replaced by monologues.” The work is presented on a table facing an “empty” chair, with a soundtrack of layered, pre-recorded conversations.

Helen Storey, who has constantly pushed at the boundaries between art and science, conceived “Dress of Glass and Flame” in collaboration with The Royal Society of Chemistry. She wanted to create a work within which a part of the original creative and alchemic process could be kept alive. “That we can’t settle on whether glass is a liquid or a solid makes the mystery of the material unendingly mesmerising for the creative mind”, she says.

Professor Frances Corner, Pro Vice Chancellor, LCF, says “We wanted to create a collaboration with Berengo Studio and The Wallace Collection to help change perceptions about all of our disciplines – craftsmanship, glassmaking and fashion. Fashion is such a transformative medium: we all use it to change the way we look and express ourselves. The artists in our exhibition are transforming glass, ‘fashioning’ it into something that carries so much more meaning than the raw material. There is an exciting alchemy at work here.”

Glasstress: White Light / White Heat runs at the Venice Biennale until 24 November, at the Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti on the Grand Canal and at the Berengo Centre for Contemporary Art and Glass. The exhibition then moves to the London College of Fashion’s Fashion Space Gallery and Porphyr Court at the Wallace Collection, where it will present an interesting dialogue with their important Venetian glass collection.

A series of London events is being planned, including a panel discussion and curator-led tours. A major publication has been created to accompany Glasstress: White Light / White Heat.



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