Running in the family

[slideshow_deploy id=’29164′]

Opening next month at Yorkshire Sculpture Park is the joint exhibition of works by Venetian glass artists Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana. The siblings’ first show in the UK, YSP’s space will be inhabited by the two’s foiling series of glassworks.

Progeny of Murano, Italy’s Venini glassware dynasty, Laura and Alessandro grew, learnt and worked there. (We can only imagine what a fragile stage the glassware milieu must’ve made for the inevitable, tumultuous performances of sibling rivalry!). As young adults, they joined forces to reorganise the Venini museum and its photographic archives, from there designing for it custom lamps and other objects. The two have since dedicated their lives to art, its teaching, its creation and its exhibition.

Says Peter Murray, YSP’s Founding and Executive Director, of the de Santillanas: “Separately, they have fine-tuned shared experiences into different and distinctive visual languages. What they have in common is a shared passion for glass: the tradition, the craft and the endless possibilities of creating works of art from the magical and unpredictable qualities of this medium.”

Murray is quite correct – the magic of the medium is the donnée of each oeuvre, and in each oeuvre can also be found a distinct, characteristic, and powerful visual language. It’s as if, together, they’ve compensated for a lacuna in glass arts, wherein all too rarely is form unshackled from function. With Laura’s glass sculptures, for example, the form is foremost. Her “glass books”, as she calls them, will be displayed in the Chapel at YSP, in a library on specially made bookshelves. Her collapsed versions of the typical blown cylinder are bulky and robust, yet still, in defiance of opacity, work like a prism. As vessels of light, the “books” self-imbibe with the glow of any light caught passing through them, re-coloring and gently emitting it.

Alessandro, too, relinquishes glasswork as a solely practical, or functional, genre of sculpture. He creates unique, painterly surfaces of millimetres thick glass sheets manipulated in their most malleable, heated phase. The wall and floor works to be exhibited at YSP are mirror-like, but not quite; they’re fluid-like, but not quite; they’re marred with the imperfections and undulations of watery maelstroms – but not quite. There’s an oxymoronic privacy, opaqueness and stillness in the dark and brooding surfaces.

Through the complementing nature of Laura’s gentle, stately shelved works and Alessandro’s turbulent, somber wall-hangings, the de Santillanas’ respective series at YSP call for a moment of reflective reverie. What profundities lie in these light-manipulators, these lustrous fabrications of such fundamental material, these concomitant yet so contrasting creations bred from such filially entwined creators?

This upcoming exhibit at Yorkshire Sculpture Park represents only a sliver of the site’s artistic treasures. As the leading international centre for modern and contemporary sculpture, the West Yorkshire museum is the only in the world that features Barbara Hepworth’s entire The Family of Man, and also boasts site-specific works by Andy Goldsworthy, David Nash, and James Turrell.

by Emily Rae Pellerin

Please visit the YSP site online for more information.

The show opens at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park from May 2 until September 6