The Glassworks at Biot

Le Verrerie de Biot

Biot is a town in the foothills of the Maritime Alps, the oldest part on the pinnacle of a hill called a village perché, characteristic of the political turbulence of the Middle Ages. Above the parking place at the glass gallery and factory there are houses affixed to the cliffs.

There are a few unimposing buildings to be seen.  One currently houses an exhibition of international artists from Europe and the US.  The other houses a boutique with the standard glass objects – little cute cats, angels, and the rest.  And this adjoins a gallery where there is an exhibition by a local glass maker by name Naravo.  This links with the factory and all its equipment – ovens, fashioning irons and so on.  We saw two men – of a Sunday afternoon – team-working at a glass object – a deep blue vase emerging in a steel grip from a white-yellow furnace, being laid on a bench and having its edges scraped with a weird-looking instrument.

But the glass…  it was the international exhibition that was the revelation.  I’ve never particularly cared for glass as a medium in art.  Mosaics, maybe, but today I saw objets de art that were memorable.  It’s difficult to describe any one object.  They often have an inward quality, that is, you can look into them in a way that you can’t do with other media.  It’s almost as if you’re paging deeper and deeper into the object, as you go beyond the jagged and smooth edges.  The coldness of glass… it is the blues and greys of the works that transport one from ordinariness to levels almost other-worldly, sleek, sharp dreams.  There can be hard angularity and there can be lines sinuous and watery; there can be fragments of a human profile and there can be wafting abstraction; there can be the absolute of symmetry and there can be falling forms in crystalline chaos.  One work that will remain with me was a rock with opaque glass melted over it, the one forming the other forming the one…

No pictures were allowed in the gallery itself, but I was happy to take shots of Naravo’s work in the other building, some of which were also memorable.

But it will be those works from the Czech Republic, from Romania, Germany, France, Slovakia and the US that have given me something new and startling, amplified by the museum’s reflecting display cabinets and subtle lighting that seemed to echo and echo each of the works.

Will van der Walt ©

Dimanche 3 Juin 2012

Image Sources: Photos by Will 


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