In the UN’s International Year of Glass, we are pleased that more than a dozen Design-Nation current and alumni members feature in the British Glass Biennale, which is open til 1 October.
This week we talk to exhibiting glass artist Helen Slater Stokes whose impressive glass sculptures are formed using highly technical processes she mastered in the course of her PhD study. We asked Helen what work she is showing at the Biennale?
Helen Slater Stokes: The piece I am showing is entitled ‘Void’, it is a freestanding 40 x 40 cm square lenticular cast glass artwork, that is 6 cm thick.
Design-Nation: Tell us a little bit about the ideas and processes involved.
HSS: This work is uses traditional kiln-formed glass studio processes, combined with cutting edge digital lenticular image technology and is the result of PhD research completed in 2021, at the Royal College of Art, into ‘The Optical Perception of Image in Glass’.
‘Void’ incorporates a cast glass lenticular lens. The process to produce this accurate industry standard lens is totally unique to my glass practice and was developed during my PhD research. Within this glass casting there is also a digitally created lenticular image, which was also developed through my research, and this combination of lens and image enables this piece to visually animate as the view moves around the work.
Conceptually, ‘Void’ combines notions of visual spatial perception and physical surface, to question where the material surface of the pictorial plane resides and how we perceive the spatial depth within. The work speaks of control and chaos, drawing on contemporary emotional, social and spatial concerns around proximity, whilst generating an almost meditative animating virtual space controlled by the observer.
DN: It’s the International Year of Glass – what makes this amazing material special to you? Why do you choose to work with it?
HSS: Glass is a magical material, it is scientifically and practically challenging, but at the same time intriguing. As such, I enjoy the problem solving that is involved in pushing how this material can be used artistically, and of course love the visual effects that can be achieved.
As an artistic medium it is relatively new and as such has so many possibilities. Optically it is a fascinating and unique material that offers such versatility. Whilst intellectually, the technology behind glass manufacture is constantly evolving, as glass is no longer only used in windows and glassware, but mobile phones, fibre optics, medical research, and spatial exploration, to mention but a few applications. New and old glass formulars and processes, and new technologies, can combine with artistic applications making this such an exciting material that fascinates me and which I love working with.
D-N: What are your plans for the future? Where would you like to go, physically or metaphorically?
HSS: In the future I plan on continuing my research into the optical perception of image in glass and how glass can act as a facilitator in creating almost holographic virtual spaces and forms. I hope to scale up my work for architectural projects and site-specific art installations, by working on research residencies and in collaboration with industry to widen the possible applications for my process.