Everyday encounters with glass – a no-nonsense tumbler, a minimalist vase or a throwaway bauble, say – are unlikely to prepare visitors for the range of work on display at this summer’s British Glass Biennale.
With a new stipulation that entered work could not exceed a floor space of 1m2, the exhibits nonetheless span a great range of creativity, from lighting to large-scale installations, and from the decorative to the functional.
There is an emphasis on the sculptural this year, according to Michelle Keeling, the biennale’s curator, with a significant amount of lighting. The variety of techniques on show include traditional glass casting and engraving, and new technologies such as water-jet cutting – student Margareth Troli uses it for her Bar Rockoco lamp, for example. Sarah Blood, meanwhile, is introducing a fusion of neon with ceramics.
There is also a trend towards crossover with other disciplines. Cathryn Shilling fuses strips of glass to form a flat sheet that resembles woven material to create fabric-like pieces, and Kathryn Wightman’s creations also have strong connections with textiles and fashion.
Bob Crooks is inspired by geometry, architecture, the natural and man-made world, as well as the qualities of glass itself.
’There are great examples of the breadth of what can be done with glass today,’ says Keeling. ’Glass is being recognised more as an art form, and we’re introducing it to a lot of people who wouldn’t have the opportunity to see this work.’