Chihuly at Kew Gardens

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You might have thought than improving on the colour display that you see at Kew Gardens in south west London would be a difficult thing to do.

The “Sapphire Star” illuminated at night. Image – Chihuly and Kew Gardens

But it has been done, not by planting new startling and eye-capturing plants but by a range of glass sculptures by Dale Chihuly, the American glass artist. That’s not the right word but what do you call him? He isn’t a glass blower but a designer and creator of architectural or sculpted works in glass.

It also isn’t his first time at Kew having exhibited there as long ago as 2005. He has also had works on exhibition in other parts of the UK so I remember a work of his in London’s Berkeley Square some years ago. But it was in Venice that I first saw a number of his installations. That city has been a favourite of his, possibly because of the glass creative expertise on the island of Murano, so perhaps it wasn’t surprising that the exhibition in the 1990’s was not only extensive but internationally acclaimed.

Now, back at Kew Gardens, his latest collection opened on April 13th and remains there until almost the end of October. This exhibition, called Reflections on Nature, features a number of works some of which are new and some of which are technically very difficult to create.

Rotolo 2018 . Image – www.chihuly.com

The Rotolo is a structure consisting of twisting or spiralling glass which can weigh over sixty kgs. It takes strength and more than one person to just handle the glass and days to cool slowly so that the glass doesn’t crack. Chihuly says that the technique of creating a structure like this took him many years. Now we have a chance to see what creativity he has achieved n what he calls the Seaforms series.

Do not think that you need to go only in daylight to see Chihuly’s work. From 15th August to 26th October on every Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 7.30 pm onwards his artworks will be illuminated. During this time not only will light provide a supporting act but musicians will also be adding to the evening entertainment as they complement the installations. Among those musicians will be Alasdair Malloy a harmonica player but his harmonica is different from many you will see. His is, appropriately, made of glass.

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