Arts: The Independent Collector

John Windsor's guide to buying affordable modern art
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The Independent Culture
THE WORK of some sculptors has an unmistakable individuality; who cannot tell a Moore or a Giacometti at first glance? The small-scale sculptures of Emma Woffenden have their own powerful identity.

They are not chipped from stone or cast in bronze; they are blown glass. Glass is the new Brit-art. It is gaining an international reputation. And so is 35-year-old Woffenden. She was among three emerging British glass artists cited by Dan Klein, professor of glass at Sunderland University and Britain's leading glass aficionado, when he lectured in Japan this year. The others were Galia Amsel and Colin Rennie.

Woffenden's glass does resemble the work of Henry Moore. Like Moore's work, and the tribal art that was one of its influences, it distils the anatomical features of men and beasts - lungs, abdomen, head, claws, genitals - into their basic, near-abstract shapes.

Distils is the word, for the glass is also reminiscent of laboratory apparatus - bell jars, tubes and retorts. One of her sculptures is titled Retortion; it is a bulbous head - or perhaps a thorax, or even a phallus - drooping on two legs. Another is Breath, a simplified lung inside a frosted bell jar. It makes you want to gasp. This is an effect peculiar to glass blown into a mould. It seems to be still expanding, like an embryonic organism, obeying strictly geometric laws, even though it is cold and lifeless. Woffenden does not use colour; her work is pure form.

Professor Klein says of her: "Her sense of form is her greatest strength. Hidden within her work is an innate understanding of the human anatomy."

Woffenden, a Royal College of Art ceramics and glass graduate, says: "I am fascinated by things not yet fully formed, pre-birth things; always the beginnings, primordial things, the early essence of things."

She is one of the only two glass artists at the newly launched Barrett Marsden Gallery in London, which has controversially signed up artists - mostly ceramists - on London-wide exclusive contracts.

She is showing until 12 August in the group exhibition "Embody" at the Northern Gallery for Contemporary Art, Sunderland, as part of Sunderland University's Glass season to celebrate the opening of the pounds 16m National Glass Centre there.

Prices: at the Barrett Marsden Gallery, Woffenden's cast-glass `Crib', 13cm high, is pounds 1,490: `Bud', slumped glass (slumped, when hot and floppy, into an open mould), 23cm high, is pounds 3,000. `Apparatus', blown glass 17.5cm high, one of an edition of 12, is pounds 460