With Murano’s glass masters
Tenth eonian initiative by Frédéric Morel (April 2020)
Val’s favorite medium was bronze. During her creative path, she tried to explore a few others but always returned to this material.
Besides that bronze charmed her with its ancestral and immutable character, she said that with it her creations shone better because the patina breathed into them a life of their own evolving over time through its natural oxidation.
It was during the year 2013 that I started to talk to her about glass after seeing in galleries in Hong Kong sculptures with this medium which had impressed me a lot. Val was not really convinced at the time, but she nevertheless discussed it informally with our friends Francesco and Ja Brancaccio who had been working for a long time with Italian glass masters.
Around mid-2015, Val had been working intensively on monumental creations in her studio for over a year when she told me that she really needed to step back and rest. We then decided to take a trip to Rome that neither she nor I knew. It was while preparing our voyage that our friends suggested that we take the opportunity to come and join them in Venice for them to bring Val to the workshop of master glassmakers in Murano whom they knew.
Before we left for Italy, I had sent them exhibition catalogs of Val’s work as well as some of her bronze figures. The head of the family, Enzo, was enthusiastic about it and the day we arrived on the island, he warmly welcomed Val into his workshop offering her to come back the next day to introduce her to the art of glass.
The spectacle of the ballet of canes of glassmakers perched with their balls of incandescent material going from the furnaces to the expert hands of the master and his apprentices, immediately triggered in her a flood of creativity, a multitude of questions, a vision of the possibilities and of sculptures to become. She already knew at that moment that she was not just going to make glass works but to grab this new medium to make it dance, unite it, glorify it with bronze. That day, Val knew what she was going to do with this material that would give materiality to the void and that was her stroke of genius.
[ + ]
From the day of this first initiation with the master glassmakers of Murano and during the months that followed, this is the essential idea to remember in order to understand the vision that Val had for appropriating this new medium and creating this collection of around thirty pieces made of glass and bronze but also of light. She wrote about this : “[…] Working on my sculptures, I do not understand everything that is happening, but I sense that something is taking place, suggested worlds, worlds that sometimes we sense but no one knows about. Glass showcases countless representations of a certain reality, renders its materiality void.”. With Val, voids are essential because they are the ones that create, in contrast to the plain structures, the perfect visual rhythm that she sought to achieve in and with her sculpture.
During this first initiation in Murano in September 2015, Val created only four glass pieces, one of which will prove decisive for the work that she then carried out with this new medium.
She wanted to insert one of her bronze figures into the material. The owner’s reaction to her request was almost violent. “Impossibile! He exclaimed, immediately taking Val by the hand to take her to a corner of the workshop where there was a heap of about fifty broken glass balls in which coins were inserted. Enzo then explained that the metal had created a thermal shock during the cooling process and that it had caused them all to burst.
One of Val’s main personality traits was her persistence and even her obstinacy while facing technical constraints. Having learned that the melting point of glass was only two hundred degrees higher than that of bronze, she then suggested that by heating up red-hot the figure before inserting it into the incandescent glass, it might avoid thermal shock and insisted on trying it out. The master glassmaker was far from being convinced but ended up accepting. When we came back to the workshop the day after, after all the glass pieces of Val had cooled, the glass part with its bronze insert, which will then compose Freedom, was intact ! Val had just invented new possibilities for marrying bronze and glass.
With these first four pieces, Val created “her first stories” with glass and bronze but also iron and especially light by inserting LED lamps magnifying glass and creating reflections. She then began a great work of preparation to sculpt freely with this new medium. It was the first time that I saw her drawing sketches and models of her sculpture projects.
She returned to Murano in February 2016 with moulds, figures and bronze elements and patina components. She worked for several weeks with the Venetian master glassmakers and produced some forty pieces of glass there, which she received a few weeks after her return to Thailand. Here is what she wrote then : “[…] The beauty of the glass caught my eye and captured my soul. […] Each glass block suggests me a story, I forgot my original intentions to focus on what it tells me today. Every single piece of glass seems unique to me, each has its own story that brought it there in my hands, having this particular form, this particular transparency, these marks related to the manipulation of matter that I desired to preserve during the polishing stage. Each sculpture will carry its own history, the joy of achievement, the discovery of a new universe. […] With glass, there is a strong focus on the essential. Reality is not what it seems to be, there is something beyond reality, an almost sacred spiritual dimension.”
She titled her work with Murano glass Tenth eonian initiative which is the anagram of The Venetian initiation in order to reinforce the mystery that the result inspired her and as she wrote then : “[…] All these materials are “trompe l’oeil”, illusionist. They fuel the idea of the labyrinth where one loses one’s bearings. They open into an imaginary world, an unknown world which we sense is in existence. They are changing and disturbing reflections.”.