From now until the end of October, an exposition of the work of UK glass sculptor Dale Chihuly can be viewed in the extraordinarily beautiful setting that is Kew Gardens. Rachael Whitfield reports.
Chihuly is an American glass artist who uses blown and fused glass to create sculpture, art and installations of incredible skill.
Chihuly’s work has previously been displayed at Kew, but the current exposition features some new pieces especially created for this current showing, along with other work of Chihuly that have never been seen before in the UK.
Kew is the perfect setting to display this work.
'I visited on a beautiful hot, bright, sunny day; where the glass sculptures captured the sunlight and reflected it back with great luminosity. Yet even on a dull day the vividness of colour in this glasswork would bring light and energy to this garden space.'
There are 32 artworks on display at Kew, which are imaginatively and playfully curated. Some sculptures are bold, magnificent in size and concept, for example, the specially commissioned nine metre blue glass Persians that hang from the ceiling of the newly restored Temperate House; and Summer Sun with its wild red and yellow spirals, seen vividly even when viewed from across the lake.
'Other sculptures are come upon more unexpectedly, hidden in amongst foliage like the Ikebana, or only fully appreciated when you climb the stairs of the glasshouses.'
Some pieces blend perfectly and organically in situ like Fiori Verdi on the floor of the Temperate House.
'It sits in amongst the tropical foliage naturally and easily and could almost be taken for another tropical plant, only when you look more closely do you notice the tendrils and curves that distinguish this as different.'
Other sculptures are much more challenging in their environment, I found the blue and purple of Neodynium Reeds and Turquoise Marlins unsettling by how they jarred against the planting they were surrounded by.
The exterior and tropical house sculptures are supplemented by an exhibition of smaller pieces held in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art.
The pieces here span across a wider period of Chihuly’s career, influences of Murano from his time working at the Venini factory can be seen, along with his drawings.
'Some of the pieces are beautifully lit, soft and iridescent (an extension of the exposition has been a series of Chihuly Nights where the artworks are illuminated at sundown).'
The Japanese garden hosted Niijima Floats; a collection of flawless spheres in blown glass, the range of colours and patterns are highlighted against the grey raked gravel and reminiscent of a solar system.
'This collection was one of my favourites, it felt tranquil and calm; the perfection of a sphere completely suited the preciseness and neatness of the Japanese garden.'
Ethereal white persian pond, is an artwork of white and clear striped glass flowers supported and rimmed with steel installed in the Waterlily House.
By Kew standards the Waterlily House is small, and the effect of this beautiful sculpture in a contained space is quite intense, completely transforming the space. The glass of the sculpture reflects in the dark water of the pond and the lilies reflect on to the glass, creating an organic blend that is almost seamless between what is nature and what is sculpture.
'This sculpture to me is the heart of the exhibition, totally fulfilling the theme of ‘Reflections on nature’.'
The exposition continues at Kew until 27th October 2019.