Visual Art: Independent Collector - John Windsor's guide to buying affordable contemporary art

PURE WHITE and delicately modelled, this porcelain cast of an infant's dress by Tiziana Bendall-Brunello seems to contain the breath of life. It speaks of the fragility of childhood and the fleetness of time.

The Italian-born artist has already earned a reputation for her glass bowls in which gold, silver and copper is embedded, and for her glass architectural panels. But it is her casts of socks, shoes - and now little dresses - that she feels impelled to make between commissions, that have caught the eye of exhibition curators.

Janice Blackburn, the independent curator, has put her porcelain dress in her current "Spirit of the Age" exhibition at the Bowes Museum, Barnard Castle, County Durham, and her pair of lead-crystal stiletto-heeled shoes were in this summer's "Absolut Cobblers" exhibition at the Barbican. Next month, the Hayward Gallery will show her ceramic and glass triptych, "Fragments", in its show, "Addressing the Century: 100 Years of Art and Fashion", which explores the radical visual innovations of key figures in art and fashion.

Bendall-Brunello, 39, dipped the 20in high cotton dress repeatedly in porcelain slip until it literally acquired body. After each dip, she accentuated the detail of the frills using a wooden modelling tool. "These dresses are so close to being human; they really talk to you," she says.

So it is a pity that about four out of five crumble or distort into macabre shapes during firing at 1280C. She discards them. The survivors - only four so far - emerge with the fabric incinerated without trace and having acquired a subtle movement of their own. "It's not like carving the drapery of a stone statue," she says. "You have to stand back and let the firing process take its own course". The latest, to which she has become most attached, has braced its tiny shoulders and puffed out its chest.

One of her inspirations is the Sixties Italian arte povera artist Giuseppe Penone, especially his ceramic life-size human figure, "Breath", cast in negative so that the empty cavity seems to materialise.

Reaction to the little porcelain dress is mixed. One viewer, overheard by Bendall-Brunello, called it "The epitome of poetry". Another said: "Oh, god, it's difficult to look at, it's so ghostly". To me, it looks like one of those irresistibly nostalgic 18th century children's garments that turn up in trunks in the attics of the gentry - the last remnant of a life, perhaps snuffed out before its time, now resurrected.

Her pair of slip-cast socks are more homely. They look as if they have just been cast off - crumpled, but still containing the shape of feet.

Bendall-Brunello's degree course at Camberwell College of Arts was in fine art and ceramics. Hence her daring use of kiln technology. One of her works is a little dress sandwiched between two sheets of glass and fired. The dress has disappeared, but its impression in the glass remains, down to the last fibre. She has applied a screenprint of the dress, as it was, to one side of the glass. "I like using glass," she says. "It's like freezing, preserving something. The glass allows you in, but at the same time keeps you at a distance."

Each of the three tile-like shapes of her "Fragments" contains a porcelain cast of a section of a dress embedded in greenish glass. "I wanted to deconstruct something familiar,", she says, "and then put it back together in a different way. It was certainly more involving than previous pieces.

"My work appears to be self-generating. I feel as if I'm following leads, picking up threads."

Prices: pounds 450 - pounds 2,200. Examples of her work will be in Sotheby's annual selling exhibition of contemporary decorative art in February.

Tiziana Bendall-Brunello (01223-411374)

Arts and Entertainment
Shades of glory: Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend

Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act

Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
The Queen (Kristin Scott Thomas) in The Audience
theatreReview: Stephen Daldry's direction is crisp in perfectly-timed revival
Arts and Entertainment

Will Poulter will play the shape-shifting monsterfilm
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

    He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
    General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

    On the margins

    From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
    Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

    'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

    Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
    Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

    Why patients must rely less on doctors

    Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
    Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

    Flesh in Venice

    Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    11 best anti-ageing day creams

    Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
    Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

    Juventus vs Real Madrid

    Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
    Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

    Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

    Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
    Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

    Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

    Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

    Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

    Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
    China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

    China's influence on fashion

    At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
    Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

    The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

    Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
    Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

    Rainbow shades

    It's all bright on the night
    'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

    Bread from heaven

    Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
    Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

    How 'the Axe' helped Labour

    UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power