THE FIFTH SOUND – MURANO GLASS
By: Shane Guffogg
The origins for the glass sculptures started as drawings in 1997, though at that time I wasn't aware of it. I was making drawings of the shapes that were formed in the space around the ribbon-esques images I was painting. The idea of turning a negative space or shape into a three-dimensional object was in line with making the invisible visible, which is something I often think about. The ribbons that were floating in the void were, and still are, done spontaneously, and because they involve the movement of my hand, arm (and depending on the size of the canvas, my body) I think of them as figurative. If the “images” in my work are figurative, then what does the space around them become? Once the initial lines are laid down in paint on the canvas, weeks if not months are spent defining them within the pictorial space using oil paint mixed with a glazing medium. The paintings are a visual conversation between my subconscious and consciousness.
This visual conversation is also true for the glass sculptures. They started by drawing the outlines of the negative space on paper that was folded in half, then cutting out the shape, creating a mirrored image. The mirroring of these shapes would be the precursor to a 10 year series of paintings started in 1999 that I refer to as my pattern paintings. With the sculptural idea, I began to play with the cut out shapes, exploring the 3 dimensional object by drawing light and shadows onto the paper to create the illusion of a 3-d object.
In 2004 I was invited to Venice, Italy to learn about the history of Murano glass with the prospect of collaborating with a glass master. With this possibility, the shapes I had been exploring started to resonate for me with the prospect of making them in glass. Taking in the visual glass history, I began seeing some of the shapes in the Murano glass pieces in connection with shapes in my paintings. A second trip was made to Venice in 2005 with more exposure to the Venetian landscape – rhythms, shapes, colors and forms that make up this historical city of reflective light. My original thoughts about the shapes I was exploring in 1997 was that they would be bronze sculptures, but the concept of creating them in glass was making more sense because of the array of colors and light that is inherent within the very nature of glass, and felt to be a truer extension of my paintings.
The second trip resulted in the making of one glass piece, but the piece was a direct interpretation of my paintings and didn't touch upon the ideas of the shapes and colors that in hindsight, still needed more time to percolate.
Upon my return to Los Angeles, I began to explore my cut out shapes with clay and casting them in plaster, if for nothing else, just to see them. My objective for the sculptures was for them to hover between masculine and feminine, organic and architectural. In essence, hover between what we think we know and what we know we know. The plaster pieces lacked the fluidity and depth that my paintings had, but I continued with the cutouts feeling they were something worth exploring.
Then in 2011, I was contacted by Alvise Schiavon with the idea of picking up where we had left off with the glass sculptures, but it would take another 3 years for the timing to be right. Now, as I sit on a terrace in Venice, Italy, writing this statement, I can see a bell tower not too far off and I am reminded of the top piece of The Fifth Sound, with the top of the bell tower being stretched skyward to a point and its base curving down under it as if to give it a soft landing. The top of The Fifth Sound is inverted with the top being curved and the bottom stretching down to make contact with its yin. The houses across from me have light dancing across the Venetian earth toned plastered walls as if a Morse code is being sent from the sun and decoded by the canals. There is a sense of antiquity here that permeates the essence of time.
The history of Murano glass is in line with my idea that art is a direct connection to the past, allowing the present tense to become a continuation of the artist's visual conversations that transcends time. These glass sculptures are a conversation with both my paintings and the glass masters that have worked over the centuries creating new types of glass, shapes and designs that stand before us as ethereal objects of beauty. The Fifth Sound is as much about painting as they are sculpture and glass; they are a fusion of all my ideas that I have been investigating for the past 25 years. I can't say what The Fifth Sound actually sounds like, but I can show you how I suspect it might look if the invisible were made visible.