The work of the American artist Dale Chihuly has revolutionised the concept of blown glass as an art form and so, frankly, I was delighted when I heard that Chihuly had decided to exhibit this year in London. This awe-inspiring collection of his work is currently housed at the Halcyon Gallery in Mayfair and each exhibit has been skilfully arranged and illuminated so as to allow uninhibited exploration and enjoyment of what are imaginative and visually sensual creations. The exhibition is a wonderful demonstration of the tangibility and physicality of Chihuly’s work, but is also provocative, constantly challenging the viewer’s understanding of the concept of temporal space.
Chihuly’s sculptures, the Chandelier and Waterford located on the ground floor, seek to transform and through the projection of light, twisted knots of glass are cast as silhouettes against the wall. It is interesting to see the effect that this simple projection has on Chihuly’s work. The parallel image created supplies a further dimension and the outline of the shadow cast appears to become just as much a physical presence as the glass itself. Standing in front of the overlapping coils, I was stunned by the sheer energy of Chihuly’s work and marvelled at the skill involved in replicating in a convincing way, fluidity and living organisms in a material such as glass.
The 24 feet-long installation titled Mille Fiori in the Mezzanine sensitively explores naturalistic themes. This piece was specially created for the exhibition and provides an astonishing visual richness, not only through a mirrored reflection beneath the sculpture, but also above in the glass ceiling panels.
The layout of the exhibition as a whole is refreshing in its apparent simplicity. Instead of attempting to partition off and subdivide the floor space, the Halcyon Gallery appears to relish the open plan set up and in so doing, allows each of Chihuly’s exhibits space to breathe independently from one another and provides visitors with the chance to freely navigate between the various works of art and in one’s own time.
The collection of both glasswork and painting on canvas in the basement forms an interesting reflection on the artist and the way he treats colour through both mediums. Each painting reflects an almost reckless abandonment within the tonal scheme, vivid brushstrokes underlining and exposing spontaneity, as well as possessing a curious thermal energy. The thick and sometimes crude application of paint manages to maintain though a fragility, which is mirrored in the subtle fusions of saturated colour within the glass work. This is most noticeable in the breathtaking Baskets, each delicate inflection of colour blending to form a unisoned whole.
The basement also contains two antechambers, set apart from the rest of exhibition. Sapphire and Sky blue Fiori is clearly representative of Chihuly’s love of nature. Tall blue stems arise from the crushed glass suggesting foliage. Although the glass did not even reach my head height, I felt curiously dwarfed by this work as if I had been drawn deep into a forest, exposing my vulnerability and insignificance in comparison with the power and creativity of nature.
An exhibition consisting of just four rooms does not sound extensive. However, I felt on leaving that I had entered and journeyed through a great space when observing Chihuly’s work. Although startlingly beautiful, his art cries out for perceptive installation and the Halcyon Gallery has provided just that. This exhibition is a must see celebration of a remarkable artist’s work.
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