The Independent Collector: John Windsor's Guide To Collecting Contemporary Art: Tessa Clegg
Tuesday 24 November 1998
The reason - you have guessed - is that the Brits have not yet woken up to contemporary glass, unlike the Europeans. Clegg, 52, has spent 17 years since graduating from Stourbridge College of Art sending photographs of her work to British galleries, to little avail. But that is hardly surprising, considering that Britain has no commercial gallery dedicated to its own contemporary glass work.
"I had given up on this country," she says. "We produce so many good artists, but we would rather lag the roof than buy art."
Clegg's reputation was made by her showing at an independently-curated European biennial art fair - the Venice Aperto Vetro of 1996. In the past year alone, she has been awarded commissions by the Corning Glass Museum, New York, the Musee des Arts Decoratifs, Paris - and the V&A in London. At least the Prime Minister showed some appreciation by displaying her work at the G8 summit in Birmingham in June - where foreign political leaders recognised it more readily than their British counterparts did.
What do foreigners see that most Brits don't? For a start, Clegg is pioneer of the lost-wax technique in kiln-cast glass. Kiln-casting is itself relatively new, having revolutionised glass-making in America in the 1960s. All eight entries shortlisted for the Jerwood Prize were cast, not blown.
Melting coloured glass fragments into a mould can produce some unexpected and delightful shapes, but Clegg has brought a new sophistication to this process by using lost-wax moulds - in which thin, delicate seams of wax are steamed out of plaster moulds, leaving a cavity to be filled with molten glass. The method gives her total control of the process and allows her to remain faithful to the vessel shape.
The glass bottles shown here, though only 20cm high, look monumental because of their perfect form. Her eye locates the prime proportions of the ancients - the "golden section", for example - then departs slightly from it. Such works spend 10 days in the kiln prior to three or four days of grinding and polishing.
The play of light in enclosed spaces is her signature. The three "Play Boxes" exhibited in Venice are hollow, red, geometric shapes free-standing in clear glass dishes. At first glance, the hollow shapes look solid, teasing our ability to cognise hidden space. Her work has wit.
She sees herself not as an artist, but as a glass-maker. "I'm firmly rooted in the applied arts tradition. I make domestic objects, not sculpture". She is a teacher, too. The Jerwood judges chose her, not only for her glass, but for her reputation at the RCA and Middlesex University's glass department - which has just closed down.
Prices: about pounds 1,000 for editions of nine, pounds 3,000 for unique pieces. Galleries: Clara Scremini, Paris (00 331 480 43 242), Von Bartha, Basel (00 41 61 271 63 84). Studio: 0181-985 5276
Will explain back story to fictional kingdom Westeros
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Canadian actor punched in face after 'Islamophobia' experiment goes wrong in wake of Ottawa shooting
- 2 Topshop at centre of row over body image as 'shocking' skinny mannequin photo goes viral
- 3 Woman blinded as a child can see again after hitting her head on a coffee table
- 4 Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson criticised for beer tweet
- 5 The bubble bursts for Sodastream
JK Rowling's Harry Potter Halloween stories: Dolores Umbridge was based on real person she 'disliked intensely'
Best horror films of all time
Your Halloween playlist: From 'Thriller' and 'Ghostbusters' to Marilyn Manson and Eminem
Benedict Cumberbatch describes the 'explosive' Sherlock sex scene that will never happen
Downton Abbey season 5 episode 6 - review: Thomas and Lady Edith show sad signs of the times
Pope Francis declares evolution and Big Bang theory are real and God is not 'a magician with a magic wand'
Huge surge in Ukip support after EU funding row, according to new poll
Ukip ‘exploiting grooming scandal’ to secure party’s first police chief
Nigel Farage: 'There’s nothing wrong with white people blacking up'
Maureen Lipman says 'she can't vote Labour while Ed Miliband is leader'
Muslims, immigration and teenage pregnancy: British people are ignorant about almost everything