Artist in Focus – Glithero
Our Artist in Focus feature is back, with spotlight on our most recent new collaboration with the artists-duo Glithero. Glithero is the creative partnership of Sarah van Gameren and Tim Simpson. The duo creates objects and installations that are the result of meticulous experimentation and material invention. Designers by training, they graduated in 2008 from the Royal College of Art in London.
Since then, their practice has meandered through different mediums focussing on the creation of unique objects that can integrate art into everyday life. For their Vessels series, which Atlas is currently displaying, Glithero applied a photographic process to ceramic vases. “We are interested in the tradition of vases being a narrative tool, like the ancient Greek amphoras that have a myths and stories narrated on the outside. It’s an object that contains and at the same time carries something, like a vessel.
We first started with cyanotype printing. At the beginning it was a large experimentation; we first tried printing on leather, then on plaster. The pivotal moment for us was when we first achieved a cyanotype on plaster, which led us to realise that it might work on ceramics too. The fragility of the material was important too, because it echoed that of the subject; the life of the plants we are using are equally fragile.”
Blueware Vase n.59, n.38,n.28. Earthenware ceramics with cyanotype photogram
Unique; 39.5 x 21 cm
Day One: Blueware vases are a collection of vases with cyanotype photograms of foraged weeds, which are collected from the streets of London and then pressed in a herbarium before being captured onto the vases.First a photo-sensitive emulsion is brushed on the vases and then dried plants and weeds are placed onto the vessel. The vase is then rotated under a beam of light to expose the entire surface, capturing the shadow image of the weed against the vivid blue background of the cyanotype. Shorter exposure times result in lighter-blue vases, while a longer exposure will give a more intense and darker blue.
Blueware Vase n.38, Earthenware ceramics with cyanotype photogram
Unique; 39.5 x 21 cm
Day Two: What brought everything together for the duo was discovering Anna Atkins famous book Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions (1843-53). “We realised we could merge all these different pathways in history together by creating a “vessel” where the plant species was not so much put into the vessel but on top of the vessel.Sometimes we talk about it as sort of kaleidoscopically rearranging of different fragments of history, of techniques, processes, and artists who have worked before us. And that all came together in this idea of making a ceramic vase with a print of weed on the outside”
Blueware Vase n.6, Earthenware ceramics with cyanotype photogram
Unique; 36 x 13.5 cm
Day three: Creating these unique cyanotype vessels (vases) is a very controlled and meticulous process.The exposures are very long for the cyanotypes and can sometimes be five hours or more. The plants in themselves are fragile and need to be manipulated carefully. Although this is a careful process, imperfections do arise. For some, like in this vessel it’s the tape used to hold the plants in place that is still visible, like in Vessel n.6, the print of the tape blends in with the trace of the plant and creates an unusual and surreal silhouette.
Group of three silverware vessels, Silver gelatin photograms on porcelain ceramics
Day four: After mastering the cyanotype technique Glithero started experimenting with silver gelatin printing, which resulted in Silverware, a collection of porcelain vases obtained with silver gelatin photograms of seaweed. Foraged all around the UK coast, the seaweed is kept supple by immersing it into glycerine for two weeks, and is then temporarily attached to the surface of sensitised vases before being revolved under a beam of light.Depending on the time in the season seaweeds can be almost transparent or quite dark and thick. The variations in their translucency allows for a see-thoroughness that translates into delicate and tonal photograms.
Silverware Vessel Kelp, Silver gelatin photograms on porcelain ceramics
Unique, 58 x 30 cm
Day five: The scale of the silverware vases is very impressive. More than 50 cm tall and wide, they are very tricky to manoeuvre. To uniformly coat the surface each vase needs to be immersed in the silver gelatin solution and Glithero creates bespoke baths for each of the shapes. In contrast to the longer exposures of the cyanotypes, the silver gelatin is a very quick process, where the vase is exposed for only a matter of seconds.
Silverware Vessel Sea Spaghetti, Silver gelatin photograms on porcelain ceramics
Unique, 50 x 44 cm
Day six: By tweaking the parameters Glithero gets very different effects on the smooth surfaces of the Silverware. Some of them have a perfectly opaque black background and some show the traces of the light strip used to expose them, which is very reminiscent of an analogue clock – in contrast with the sense of timelessness that these images encapsulate.The matte surfaces of these vases are incredibly sensuous and beautiful in the flesh. If you are in town make sure you pop in to see them, they will be on show at the gallery until the 11th of March.