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Glass as art

Abhilasha Ojha  |  New Delhi 

For all those for whom glass is merely functional, a show "" and some artists "" are set to change that view.
Over a cup of coffee at the American Diner in Delhi's India Habitat Centre, glass artist Srila Mookherjee takes me on a joyride into the world of glass.
"It's amazing to watch a hot, red liquid transform magically into a vase. The possibilities with glass," she adds excitedly, "are endless, especially as you twist, stretch and blow while it evolves into something extraordinary."
Some of Mookherjee's extraordinary works are in fact on display at IHC's Visual Arts Gallery at an exhibition sponsored by Anant Art Gallery. The exhibition, "Through the Looking Glass "" Art Glass Sambandh", which started yesterday and will continue for a week, is essentially a group show that brings together 19 renowned glass artists from Sweden and India for the very first time.
Besides Mookherjee, other artists include Anjali Srinivasan, Atul Bakshi, Hemi Bawa, Kavita Nayar, Mandira Malik, Vijay Kowshik and Vineet Kacker. The artists from Sweden include Annette Alsio, Berit, Mikael and Jan Johansson, Birgitta Ahlin and Sirkka Lehtonen, Gun Lindblad, Kjell Engman, Lasse Frisk and Ulla Forsell.
The exhibition is a steal for glass art connoisseurs, especially as the artists have made some fresh experiments. Mookherjee "" who has fish motifs on her glass work "" has experimented with a unique technique called graal for the very first time. It's a technique in which, she explains, "one colour of glass is overlaid with another colour and through a series of steps is given a multi-dimensional effect".
Interestingly, Kavita and Vineet are ceramic artists who have mixed glass and ceramic for the first time especially for the exhibition. Anjali has experimented with puffed glass and Atul will display his famous hand blown "floor standing blooms mounted on steel rods".
Also on display is an eclectic mix of functional and art glass including vases, bowls, paintings, installations and glass sculptures. Mandira Malik of Manna Studio Line has lined up "functional pieces in black and white". While most pieces available are in the price range of Rs 15,000 onwards, Mookherjee's work starts with a price tag of Rs 25,000.
The most expensive piece of art in the exhibition belongs to Bertil Vallien, one of the best glass artists in Sweden. It is a polished boat form suspended on two wires in a cast iron framework and priced at Rs 22 lakh.
Is glass the next big thing? Has it arrived on the Indian map of art? "Though glass still needs to be given due respect in India, I do feel that the competition in the stained glass market has become intense," says glass artist Malavika Tiwari.
Though she doesn't have any plans to host an exhibition ("I usually work on a commission basis and find it tough to hold exhibitions," she says), her book Windows of Mystique is going to be out in the market shortly.
Published by Wardell Publications, the book, priced at Rs 895, showcases the work Tiwari has done for various hotels, restaurants, stores, BPOs, organisations and MNCs. It also features her work for private residences. "Eight per cent of my work," she says, "is for private houses." She charges a flat designer fee and depending on the work given she charges anywhere between Rs 550-1,250 per sq ft.
While there have been few exhibitions on glass "" remember Anjolie Ela Menon's two exhibitions of Murano glass sculptures held between 2000 and 2004? "" clearly the focus is now on showcasing more exhibitions dedicated to glass.
Bawa, after showing her pieces at Anant Art Gallery's show, will have a solo exhibition of 40 pieces later this month done in a glass-steel mix. From a small glass work costing as little as Rs 1,000, she says some of her work does run into a couple of lakhs. Bawa has restricted herself to casting and doesn't get involved in glass blowing.
"I used to fall sick very often in the furnaces and I think I'm too old for glass now," says Menon, who unfortunately has quit the glass artists brigade. The only Indian artist to work, in her own words, "on a series of sculptures in lead crystal", her work with Murano included a series titled "Sacred Prism" with over 56 pieces of glass sculptures including lingams, Ganesha and Balagopala.
Clearly, the fascination with glass is building up. "We still have a long way to go before we appreciate glass, but at least the Indian artists who work with this medium are finally coming together," says Mookherjee.

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First Published: Sat, August 12 2006. 00:00 IST