Demonstrating her unmatched proficiency in crafting immaculate glass wares that push the boundaries of material and technique, Dutch artist Barbara Nanning is showcasing a collection of new and recent works at London’s David Gill Gallery, in her first solo exhibition at the prestigious venue. The ongoing show, titled Bedazzled, opened to the public on November 24, 2022, and will continue to be on view at one of the city’s most highly-regarded gallery spaces until January 31, 2023. Comprising works that portray the full breadth of Nanning’s versatility as a ceramicist, sculptor, and glass artist, the collections on display highlight her supreme aesthetic acuity and eye for detail, as illuminated by the ingenious references to nature, embedded within her creations.
Originally from The Hague in the Netherlands, Nanning’s almost four-decade-long career has seen her play with glass at a myriad scales, from small-sized art and design objects, to much larger installations and sculptures. Now mainly based out of Amsterdam and Nový Bor, in the Czech Republic, Nanning’s practice is split between the two cities—with her main studio located in the former urban realm, and her prodigiously skilled team of master glass blowers operating out of the latter. “We communicate through drawings, designs and gestures,” says Nanning in a statement. She continues, “I prepare everything to the last detail in advance, in Amsterdam, then in Nový Bor, we achieve the ultimate in collaboration between artist and craftsman.”
With works that have become a part of both prestigious private collections and museums around the world, Nanning is among the foremost practitioners in her arena of expertise. Her pieces are part of the catalogues stored at the Musée des Arts Décoratifs in Paris, France; Bill Sr. and Mimi Gardner Gates in Seattle, USA; and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Perhaps the most monumental work of her already distinguished oeuvre is Monument for Mount Fuji: Petrified Dynamic Flow, a large-scale sculpture composed of crimson, petal-shaped forms, commissioned by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport in Japan’s Saitama Prefecture, now on display at the Tamaho branch of Gotemba City.
Among the curated pieces on view, from her body of work throughout the years, Coloured Shadows is a series that has been a decade in the making. Capitalising on new developments in the use of glass canes, the collection evokes Nanning’s penchant for infusing biomorphic design concepts into her work, with the influence in this case originating in organic cell structures. Having trained in ceramics, Nanning adopted glass as her medium of choice back in 1994, citing its fluidity, malleability, transparency, and varied rendering of colours as the main factors that drove her decision.
Whirling forms that turn themselves inside out to form amoeboid profiles, devoid of any clear sense of orientation, characterise the aesthetic gamut of this collection. In this case, Nanning has employed the surfaces of the glass as a canvas for the dappled, nature-inspired motifs seen throughout this cohort of pieces, in a fashion that has been likened to that of an abstract expressionist painter. By imprinting her emotional charges onto the glass, Nanning has fully exploited the material’s capabilities to their maximum.
Aside from this section of the exhibition, the gallery is also displaying new experiments by the artist in the style of verre églomisé, a technique that dates back to ancient Rome. The vessels yielded by this study incorporate the use of micro-fine layers of gold leaf, which line their insides, allowing light to decorate their faces in soft and delicate tones.
In addition, the exhibition also features selections from Nanning’s Chimaera series, the product of a collaboration with virtuoso glass-cutter Ales Zverina over a period spanning from 2018 to 2020. Made from a unique combination of ground crystal and Anna-green glass, the pieces are given life by the viridescent hues of uranium. The collection itself comprises almost 40 objects, hand formed from blown glass, and moulded by a strong geometric design language, with fins, octagons, hexagons, spheres, and cylinders outlining the structural vocabulary.
Rounding off the exhibition is a new wall work by Nanning, made up of an ensemble of jewel-like glass rings that depict the artist’s perspective on the conflict in the medium’s unrestrained fluidity as well as its capacity to accurately render perfect forms. As Nanning concludes, “I always allow the glass to be spontaneous in the end.” Toeing the boundary between art and design, Bedazzled is an outstanding showcase of the varied talents of a creative whose proficiency at her craft has few equals.
Bedazzled, Barbara Nanning's first solo exhibition at the David Gill Gallery in London, will be on view from November 24, 2022, to January 31, 2023.