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North Lands Creative Glass: A Portrait at 20

Is glass natural or man-made? Where is the division between human-manipulation and the processes of nature?

This collection of glassworks from North Lands Creative Glass, an art centre from Caithness in the northeast of Scotland, questions the limits to which glass can be stretched while exploring the nature of the material itself; how it plays with other materials, filters light, and bends to heat. The beauty of the exhibition lies in the contrast of textures, colours, and images that evoke natural landscapes with the constant awareness that each work was painstakingly moulded by expert hands and equipment.

Though the smaller pieces can be overwhelmed by the more prominent, particularly as some are placed on high shelves that require contortion to get a full view of, their subtleties are what make the exhibit engrossing. Huddled on one wall are a series of goblets. Tobias Møhl’s Goblet with Winged Dragon stands taller than the rest, its stem stretched by a serpentine dragon, as if its fiery breath is shaping the glass.  In sharp contrast, below this sits Bernard de Johnge’s 3 Caithness House Forms, an interpretation of the North Lands buildings in weighty blocks that drag the mood from fantasy to reality. Just behind is Maria Bang Espersen and Max Syron’s Frozen, a manipulated glass rod of millions of snow white fibres folding over like a wave frozen in time. For the most part, the works either suggest the harsh landscape of northern Scotland, as with Michael Bullen’s looming Rook, or from imaginings of Scotland’s ancient past, like David Reekie’s soldiers that look like Pictish drawings made three-dimensional.

Not all of the pieces fit so simply. Einar and Jamex de la Torre’s lurid bust of a primary-coloured man made of glass and found items does not sit easily with the muted colours that dominate the rest of the exhibition. His grinning teeth, which spell out BASTARD, follow the viewer around the room like a taunting clown, bringing an edge of loud modernity that cuts through the otherwise calm experience. While in some ways out of place, it acts as a foil to the other works and reminds us that not all of the modern world is as untouched and undeveloped as Caithness.

The culmination of the room is Tobias Møhl’s Black Twill Collection—five illuminated egg-shaped sculptures with intricate black textures. Møhl has mastered Venetian glass techniques and employs them in what he calls “a Scandinavian way”. Instead of the bold colours and rounded patterns of typical Venetian glass, these are black and patterned like fields of interlocking grass, tree branches, a network of leaves, and an animal’s fur. Illuminated to give depth and added texture, the works are a return of man to the forest, unsettling and yet inviting.

North Lands Creative Glass: A Portrait at 20 is an expertly crafted exhibition, linking Scotland with the world, the present to the past, and man to nature.

At Dovecot Studios, run ended 

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