I have always been fascinated by glass. How it is created and shaped seems so elemental: earth, fire, air and water combined with real human effort. Yet all this intensity produces such ethereal pieces, beautiful and fragile yet strong and solid in equal measures.
I was thrilled, therefore, to be invited to write about a new installation in the Victoria and Albert Museum, as part of the London Design Festival 2014. The designer is Paris based Jeremy Maxwell Wintrebert. The installation is called “Human Nature”.
The piece is made from hand blown cylinders in shades of green, blue and white. Now when I say glass cylinders, you may be thinking something the size of a champagne bottle…and you’d be very, very wrong. These cylinders are really, really BIG!
Reading about the work, I discovered that inspiration for it came from a visit by the artist to Glashütte Lamberts in Germany – one of the oldest remaining hand blown glass factories in the world. I chatted with one of the LDF team at the V&A who had visited the factory herself. She was clearly impressed by the impact of walking into the workshop; heat, fire and noise combined into a total assault on her senses. In preparation for being made into flat panes, the glass is blown into cylinders. Wintrebert saw these cylinders as a means to create something entirely different.
The video clip gives a great insight into the production of the cylinders!
The installation is located in two connected areas of the V&A. This museum focuses on the decorative arts and design, so makes a natural home for this work. There are two main sections situated in what would be fairly forgettable spaces by the lift and on a connecting walkway. They comprise of a long free standing wall of single height cylinders placed next to each other and a separate construction where they are piled up on each other, four high and two deep. A nearby shelf of single, white cylinders completes the overall installation.
Each single piece of glass gives the sense of being at first brittle (I kept looking to see how the piled glass was holding itself together) but then quite sturdy. The solid wall of glass uncompromisingly divided the walkway and forced museum visitors to make a deliberate choice of direction. Yet where you can see through the cylinders there is an ever changing play of light. Combine this with glimpses of other spaces in the gallery the form becomes airy and delicate as a result.
Wintrebert has been supported in developing the work by the champagne house Perrier-Jouӫt, who, I learn, have the largest private Art-Nouveau collection in Europe. The geometric shapes created by the circles and curves in each piece of glass do reflect the sinuous style of Art-Nouveau design, which also sought to harmonise design with the environment, making quite ordinary spaces and objects into works of art.
Here, I think, the artist has succeeded. This striking work has transformed an otherwise pedestrian space into a place to linger and enjoy.
The London Design Festival runs from 13th – 21st September 2014 at venues all over London.
©Chez l’abeille 2014
Disclosure: I was invited to write about this installation by the sponsor. I have received no compensation for doing this piece and all opinions are 100% my own.