Installation, 2013

Shelley James, blown by Liam Reeves (UK)

The brain gauges the relationship between objects in space through a combination of physical ‘bottom up’ cues—such as feedback from the muscles that direct the eyes to focus on a target— and ‘top down’ knowledge about how the world usually appears. For example, the same figure when seen at a distance tends to seem smaller and to move more slowly than when it is nearby. Overlapping edges or boundaries and shadows give further clues and are used to confirm assumptions about the relative position of objects in a scene.

This work combines the magnifying qualities of glass and the graphic precision of print to set up a conflict between these signals, creating a paradoxical space where the relationship between front and back, near and far is constantly switching. Patterns that, according to the usual physical and overlapping rules, lie on a distant plane, appear larger than those that seem to be closer. When the object revolves, the conflict is exacerbated. Elements at the back of the piece seem to pass behind those at the front—but to move more swiftly. The central void appears solid from some angles, while from others it appears transparent and is constantly multiplying and changing shape with the varying thickness and curvature of the material. When the piece is lit, the paradox extends beyond the object to create patterns of light and shade that compound the paradoxical appearance of a form that is both solid and transparent, material and virtual. The piece was built using a series of layers or ‘gathers’ of glass from a furnace before carving and polishing. Each stage encapsulates a lattice of bubbles or lines, positioned relative to the other to generate interference and moiré patterns.

Artist's Statement

When it comes to the visual pathways that evolved in a pre-glazed world and the cues that we use to orient ourselves, the transparent, reflective and magnifying qualities of glass are entirely paradoxical and generate compelling and disorienting illusions. The material is wonderfully permeable and mobile, literally drawing the viewer, their companions and the environment into the creative process. This piece is one of a series which plays with the relationship between the rhythms created by the dialogue between internal and external spaces, working with light and shade to consider where the object begins and ends.