Glass as Ink: Seeking Spontaneity from the Casting Process
My research at the Royal College of Art explores the interface between creative practice and material science. More specifically, it examines the point at which the artistic process ends and the unique properties of glass take over and are governed by heat, time, gravity and convection. It also addresses the transformation of two-dimensional line drawing into the third dimension. The project concerns itself with imbuing cast glass with gestural, apparently spontaneous marks, evocative of ink drawing and calligraphy, wholly embedded within solid glass objects.

My research question is how the kiln and furnace casting processes can best be exploited to render the fluid, gestural and expressionistic immediacy of ink painting, three-dimensionally, in solid glass.

Following fourteen years of studying and making art in Korea and China, I have developed an affinity for Traditional Chinese Landscape painting, calligraphy and contemporary ink painting. In recent years, artists have begun re-interpreting ancient Chinese ink painting and iconography in Western paint media, photography, ceramics, animation and even in ink itself. My work explores the fundamental characteristics of Chinese brushwork, focusing on the formal elements of line quality, ink wash, composition, balance and chop placement, all within a formal cast glass framework.

Many artists working in cast glass are concerned with external form and how light and colour are transformed in relation to the density of glass. I, however, am concerned purely with internal form. That is, ‘ink’ imagery, which is wholly contained within the glass.

For the purposes of my research, ‘ink’ refers to liquid ink as is used in Chinese brush painting and calligraphy rather than to dry ink applications such as those used in print media. The aim is not to use ink itself, even as surface decoration. Rather, it is to emulate ink, rendered in glass, while exploring the material similarities between the two media, including their liquid properties and their ability to be worked opaque or translucent.

My methodology includes identifying and isolating the elements that characterize Chinese brushwork though study and interviews with academics and living Masters of Chinese painting and calligraphy, which are intimately linked art forms in China. Studio tests include manipulating soda lime furnace glass, glass powders and solid flame worked inclusions to create a dynamic, rhythmic, assured and graceful ink aesthetic, interpreted in the third dimension. I am also experimenting with glass powders to evoke depth by creating differing intensities and layering of ‘ink’ wash.

More fundamentally, I am investigating the viscosity of soda lime glass through rigorous, controlled temperature testing of glass blocks containing trapped air bubbles, which will behave differently depending on the length of time the glass is held at a variety of temperatures. The results of the temperature tests make visible time, gravity and convection and allow for ‘ink’ lines and washes inside solid glass forms to be manipulated with bubbles with some measure of control.

April 2013

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