After being given the suggestion of looking at the artwork of Dr. Kathryn Wightman I contacted her via her website (kathrynwightmanglass) and have permission to share images from her website online (Thank you!).
Dr Wightman uses glass to imitate textile surfaces and as her practice (process and materials) has evolved so has her chosen representative textile surface. I am particularly curious about her work in the light of this current part which is about joining because to me joining is connecting layers. The current exercise I am working on is about joining overlapping edges. I will therefore focus on reviewing some key pieces in the light of this task and more generally with regards to ‘joining’ so see what I can learn.
I appreciate the description in Wightman’s introduction that gives a brief summary of the process:
‘Each layer is stacked to add depth, allowing the patterned forms to grow from the surface of the glass.’
as well as her purpose to:
‘…aim to challenge the viewer’s sense of reality.’
In woven textiles the pattern is formed within the surface, with a printed fabric the pattern rests on the surface. It would appear from my perspective that the glass is acting as a printed fabric, yet since it also has potential for translucency, transparency and opacity surface can be built up layer by layer affecting a woven and printed surface. It is interesting to note, therefore, that Wightman’s Ph.D. research from the University of Sunderland focused, ‘upon the development and application of creative printmaking processes for the decoration of blown glass.’
In my head, with only 4 hours hand-understanding of the glass-fusing process, not yet in receipt of my First-kilned, I visualise a creation of a glass ‘material’ like those jacquard loom cards being stacked on on top of each other to create the surface. I would be fascinated to see the works in real life to gain a true sight-knowing of them. I am also curious whether glass could be developed to create a textured yarn that could be manipulated to create a surface texture as well as a patterned surface (the pattern seemingly a colour-led, rather than texture-led development.)
For now I have to satisfy myself with the generosity of artists using the internet to open a window from my laptop to their world.
In Gallery III, Wightman’s pre-Ph.D work is displayed. Looking with my textile-eye I am drawn to the multi-punned piece ‘Flower Bomb’ 2009 – which is a work of blown glass forms that has an applied flock textile and the text ‘BLOOM’.
The work recalls the transition in flocked wallpapers between the levels where a flower might have been smoothly in the background and the foreground the velvetty-smooth flocking. I wonder if the flock is applied as a spray in the same way that flocking is applied to car dashboards? I remember these wallpapers from my childhood and can still feel the trace of this material in my memory when I would have tea at my neighbour’s house and would feel the wallpaper with my eye to remain ‘well-behaved’ and grounded and all the time I was itching to touch it. Waiting to be collected meant I could lean against the wall and trace the flattened smooth recesses, my mind on a journey round the labyrinth of the flocked foliage.
In the close-up of the kiln formed panel: ‘Acid Lights’ 2009, I see that cellular pigment effect I am chasing and have been since the experiments I linked back to in yesterday’s post. Getting warmer…
In Gallery II, the artist’s work that was submitted as part of her Ph.D research is shared. Here I can see a journey toward more print and patterning and then the inspirational glass lace. Hovering over each image allows one to see a little more about the processes involved. The key terms seem to be printing on a photopolymer plate that is then formed into a chosen shape and screenprinting with powdered glass. I have not yet enough knowledge to understand the photopolymer plate (but I will store it away in my mind for the printing part of MMT). Focusing on the black and white works ‘A Little Bit of Lace’ the process becomes clearer to me.
Having used some powdered glass on Sunday, and understanding the process of screenprinting I can form the process in my mind’s eye. What must be a massive challenge to the artist is the shrinkage and expansion of the glass under heat and controlling the nature of the ‘kiln gods’ in order to guarantee a predictable result. I wonder what a layer of glass lace would look like on another surface eg wood, or rusty steel, or what glass tulle would resemble – could you ripple and create the gathers of this fabric or would it only hold its from flat and slumped? Could the glass lace be shaped and formed into drapes and gathers like its textile counterpart?
The work ‘A Lot of Lace’ shows how the lace doilies can be joined by overlapping their edges. I assume these edges are fused together since the panel appears to be a whole that can be exhibited vertically.
What is forming in my mind is a way to approach my exercise of joining overlapping edges: heat-fusing edges as one experiment, then fusing layers of colour to allow a pattern to be revealed by burning down to different depths.
In ‘Lampshade’ 2010 I can see with my inexpert eye that many risky and intricate processes have been controlled in order to create this form.
Where the lace has stretched as it has been blown I am reminded of the ‘fish eye lens’ effect deforming the edges of an image stretching sections and shrinking others – there is also the feel of looking at a shadow in water where the shadow is magnified and contracted as the surface of the water moves. I discovered that surfaces could be manipulated with heat causing them to bubble and wrinkle and shrink – thinking now of acrylic jumpers killed in the tumble drier – this yarns can be stretched and deformed. A lace knit/crocheted doily in a very cheap acrylic put in the tumble drier and stretched over a shape while it is still warm would hold this, but I don’t know how you could replicate the non-stretched areas. And what would it be saying? In my head I now see a surface of bubble domes – like those you put your head in at zoos to pop up in a meerkat enclosure or to feel swum around in a shark tunnel. Like a lace bubble wrap where the bubbles are the heat stretched section – the spaces between the original form. Need to hold this thought in my sketchbook as finding words is very tricky. This is something I’d like to explore too – then imagine if that material were a stencil for powdered glass (or resin) what would that create? What impact would that have? What would it mean?
In Gallery III which Wightman created post Ph.D there is even more glass textiles: tapestries, weavings (reminding me at first glance of the weavings of Kandinsky). Here new words: ‘stacked, sifted and sintered glass’. Here the glass mimics not just the textile itself but the form in which that textile meets the world: rugs, tapestry carpets, wallpaper, a dress, the off-cuts after an apparent dress-making cutting – here at last, in ‘all i have left’ 2012, I’m beginning to see the movement in the fabric that I expect of a textile as well as the now familiar pattern and colour.
These works are my favourite and play the biggest game with my sense of reality. I love wondering what was cut away,I’d really like to read what is written, what did the cut-away fabric form, who was it for, what will happen to all these scrapplings of off-cuts, and how could they be sewn together – what could you make out of them?
This work exhilarates me no more so than the ‘cut-edge’ of the close up where the glass seems to be unravelling at its cut edge. It speaks at a metaphorical level – the cut-away hole with the text- the story of the life that has already been lived, already been made up into a garment and worn, the remaining off-cuts of fabric, what life is left from the original bolt that has been measured out as your lot by the fates, what do you make with the bits left behind, what happens after you’ve cut your cloth, then there’s all the sayings that crop into my mind: what cut of man are you? a pretty face and fine clothes do not make the person, craftiness must have clothes but the truth goes naked, cut your coat according to the cloth…
If this is ‘all i have left’ it is a great place to start looking…
With much thanks to Dr. Kathryn Wightman for her permission to use her images in this post, and with much anticipation as to what she will create next!