Dr J R. Kelly
Edinburgh College of Art, The University of Edinburgh
Glass is renowned for its ability to imitate other materials such as the opaque, lustrous qualities of semi-precious stones; which dates from ancient Mesopotamia and whose imitation have extended throughout history. During the renaissance there was a mania for hard stones such as agate, chalcedony, jade and lapis lazuli. Venetian glassmakers began to imitate these stones; creating many examples of material imitation. This craze continued to spread throughout Europe and experiments with colouring glass continued throughout the 18th and 19th century; as glass makers sought to make their own innovative colour and finish in glass. This paper will introduce the theme of imitation within the field of art glass. Many historical and contemporary glass artists have used glass to imitate and actively remediate other materials. The materiality of an artefact can be confusing, as a viewer we may question the exact nature and composition of the material presented; yet as artists we are able to subvert the semiotics of the objects we make. By changing the material’s appearance and borrowing qualities from other mediums we can subvert the object’s meaning to create a new visual language for the discipline. Within my own practice, this understanding of the rich historical context of glass history and the unique ability of glass to be technically worked and expertly coloured, inspired a new range of material testing. This process led directly to the careful creation of a palette of colours and finishes that imitate semi-precious stones. From this, a new body of glass gems were created; imitating agate, amethyst, jade, emerald and lapis lazuli. The works are made from kiln cast glass which has been lost wax cast, and then diamond cut and brush polished to a sheen, they purposefully appear to be quite raw and uncut in areas.
As a glass artist, I am certainly not alone in my journey to harness the unique qualities of glass to imitate other materials. This paper will reference a range of artists that remediate other materials in the medium of glass asserting that imitation and mimicry is an integral and vital creative act.
I will share my research interest to contextualize and frame the assertion of this paper that the use of imitation is a necessary and definitive act within creative artistic practice and that this can be traced throughout glass history.