Artistic License:Ireland Glass Biennale 2019


The National College of Art and Design is currently presenting the Ireland Glass Biennale 2019; a juried exhibition of work from some of the world’s most innovative glass artists, designers and craft practitioners. This exhibition includes sculpture, jewellery, photographic prints, stained glass, video and neon light installations, encompassing the diversity of glass-making techniques. Curated by Dr Caroline Madden, she tells THE GLOSS more about the exhibition.


What was the starting point for this exciting exhibition? 

The National College of Art and Design Ireland Glass Biennale 2019 (IGB) is a continuum of an ongoing project that serves two primary purposes. One is to continue building awareness for studio glass in Ireland, and the second is to create an anchor event here that occurs with a regular frequency in order to feed into other networks nationally and internationally. IGB 2019 was made possible via an invitation from Karen Phillips, the Director of North Lands Creative, to collaborate in a Creative European application for funding to underwrite a project entitled, Imaging a Sustainable Glass Network in Europe (ISGNE). 



The panel of jurors is very international – can you tell us about the selection process?

In order to capture the diversity of thinking and creativity involved in glass curatorship, three jurors were invited to select work for the Ireland Glass Biennale 2019. Each juror was purposely invited to contribute their specific expertise of contemporary glass practices to the jurying process. Reino Liefkes, Head of the Ceramics and Glass collections at the Victoria and Albert (VA), London, England is responsible for evolving an extensive international collection of contemporary glass at the VA. The Director at the Toledo Museum of Glass, Diane Wright, oversees the second largest collection of contemporary glass in the United States. Paula Stokes, originally from Ireland, is a cofounder of the Method gallery in Seattle and has played a pivotal role in many US-Irish contemporary glass exhibitions and events over the last 30 years. The selection process of the artists can best be summed up in the words of juror Reino Liefkes who states; “We jurors are looking for works or artists who really have something to say or who push the boundaries and contribute to the development of glass as a medium of artistic expression, and in doing so, make work that is powerful and new. In the best and most interesting work, the artist’s concept is perfectly matched with the formal aspects of the work and the possibilities of the medium. And the possibilities of the medium are expanding as the historic boundaries between art, craft and design continue to dissolve.”


The exhibition brings together emerging and established artists. Can you tell us about some of the Irish participants? 

Sinéad Brennan is a significant Irish artist. Her work, Charming woman, dangerously attractive, explores concepts of female empowerment, objectification and suppression. More specifically, Brennan examines how the roles of women have been constructed, through advertising in Western society. Her forms reference traditionally gendered objects used in weaponry and cosmetics. Another significant aspect of her work is that she upcycles discarded waste glass objects to create through traditional processes of cutting, grinding and polishing.


Róisín de Buitléar’s work Islanders, is a collaborative piece bringing together 51 artists from all over the world to participate in making one large light projected artwork formed from small individually created glass works. This was recently shown as part of Venice Glass Week, 2019. This project crosses cultural boundaries and brings together aspects of culture in a positive form of community building.

Luke Holden’s mixed media sensory work Tension Cracks is all about bringing the viewer into the present moment and sharing his curiosity and intrigue in reflecting on what can happen when water and glass interact. Holden’s work is a reaction to the increasing lack of real time human interaction arising out of the prevalent use of technological devices which has meant that a person may be physically present but mentally elsewhere.



I believe some of the works are available to buy – why do you recommend investing in glass works?

I recommend investing in glass because it is still accessible at many price points. The diversity of artists engaging with glass as expressive material offers the buyers a variety of choices. The studio glass movement in the USA has advanced the experimental and artistic potentials of glass beyond the rigour of craft. Works conceived by contemporary artists like Jim Dine, Kiki Smith and Fred Wilson have done much to sustain the fine art label and price tag that works in glass now endeavour to command. 



Have you any favourite exhibits – if so why?

I am particularly drawn to the work Drill Bits by Gayle Matthias as it brings together mixed media pregnant with layered narratives that unfold the longer you spend with the work. At first glance, it appears to be a series of car parts hanging on the wall of a male workspace but on closer viewing, one sees that the innards of the individual components’ are constructed of elements normally associated with a ‘traditionally’ female domestic setting.


Also, the Call of the Curlew by emerging artist Katie Spiers eloquently captures the essence of these birds by mapping their movement in space in a manner that is only possible when one is passionately engaged with the subject matter. Spiers was initially drawn to understanding the reasons behind the decline of curlews in Ireland and sought to record their activities before their extinction became a reality.


Need to Know: “Ireland Glass Biennale” is at Coach House Gallery, Dublin Castle Gardens, Dame Street, Dublin 2, until January 7, 2020 at 5pm;


All sales enquiries are being handled by Solomon Fine Art:

Admission is free;


Main featured image photographed and designed by Laura Quinn.

December 23, 2019