“Chihuly: Reflections on Nature”
“Chihuly: Reflections on Nature” at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, includes 35 large glass installations scattered across the gardens as well as drawings and smaller works by contemporary artist Dale Chihuly displayed in Kew's Shirley Sherwood Gallery.
Mr. Chihuly was born in Tacoma, Washington in 1941. His education has included both formal studies and informal learning in both America and Europe. He has studied at the University of Washington, the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the Rhode Island School of Design. But he has also studied art in Florence, Italy and worked at the Venini factory on the island of Murano near Venice in order to increase his knowledge of glass making.
While Chihuly is versed in traditional glass making techniques, he has taken an innovative approach to using glass in his art. For example, rather than strive for symmetry, he uses gravity and centrifugal force to turn molten glass into organic forms. He has said: “I want my work to appear like it came from nature, so that if someone found it on a beach or in the forest, they might think it belonged there.”
Chihuly uses a team of artists to produce his works. After suffering a physical injury in 1979, he was no longer able to blow glass. He therefore assumed the role of a director, producing ideas and channeling the efforts of others to achieve the artistic vision. This has enabled him to make larger and more technologically innovative works while still maintaining a link to nature. “We don't like to use a lot of tools but natural elements to make the glass - - fire, gravity, centrifugal force. As a result, it begins to look like it was made by nature.”
While Chihuly's works incorporate natural forms they are not portraits of specific plants. Rather, the forms are imaginative, they are inspired by nature, not reproductions. Furthermore, the vibrant colors of the works, amplified in their luminosity by the light passing through or reflecting on the glass, are not seen in organic nature.
As a result, the installations placed around Kew catch the eye and become focal points within the natural scenes. At the same time, due to their organic form, they are in harmony with their surroundings. In short, the installations are a successful partnership between man made art and the natural world.
The glass works inside the Sherwood Gallery are more intimate in size. In addition, they do not have a surrounding natural scene to interact with. Nonetheless, the shapes and colors have beauty. Along the same lines, Chihuly's drawings of abstract forms have movement and energy.
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Art review - Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (London) - “Chihuly: Reflections on Nature”