Hothouse of Experimentation

A new international exhibition Heat Exchange II explores the innovative opportunities of vitreous enamel with works by twenty three artists from across the world.

Vitreous enamel is a thin layer of glass created by firing one or more coloured vitreous glazes at high temperature on to the surface of a metal.  This glasslike colour has been used for decoration since 13th Century BC and the exhibition puts a contemporary spotlight on this incredibly versatile material.

The concept for the exhibition, brought to Scotland by Fife Contemporary Art & Craft,  is unusual in that the completed artworks are the result of two years of ‘e-conversation’ via a multi-author blog between the participating artists who include Scottish based artists Stephen Bottomley and Susan Cross. The artists were also invited to work together, leading to a sharing of skills and knowledge, experimentation and to new ideas exploring vitreous enamel as an exciting and developing form of expression.

Houses and Barracks - Housing and Warehousing,detail, Marjorie Simon Photo Ken Yanoviak
Houses and Barracks – Housing and Warehousing, detail, Marjorie Simon Photo Ken Yanoviak

The installation “Housing/Warehousing” by American jeweller Marjorie Simon evolved over a year from her interest in the universal themes of home and shelter.  She explains “At the Bauhaus Museum in Tel Aviv I saw colourful workingmen’s houses designed by Bruno Taut, who was forced to leave Germany by the early 1930s. On a retreat I talked with woodworker Wendy Maruyama, who was beginning her monumental “Tag Project,” about the Japanese detention camps in the US during the same war. Investigating abandoned buildings I was struck by the similarity in structures used to house prisoners at Auschwitz and Manzanar.

“I began constructing peaked-roof dwellings that were folded up from a single sheet of metal, using vitreous enamel to give a permanent, rich surface. Using wire to “stitch” them together at the seam gave a surgical as well as domestic subtext, and was a sign that they had been fabricated by hand.

“Then an unexpected layer of meaning came into the work.   Riding the train from Munich to Dachau last spring, I noticed the landscape was dotted with small, colourful, peaked-roof houses, much like the ones I had been making. The geographical and cultural proximity of these structures tied together the two previously irreconcilable bodies of work.  Taut’s houses, while modest in scale, were full of life; barracks used to warehouse people are the opposite.”

A fully illustrated catalogue accompanies the exhibition and a special symposium is taking place on 19 February 2016 to explore the ideas underlying the exhibition and inspire future developments.

See: Heat Exchange II
12 Dec – 28 February 2016
St Andrews Museum, Kinburn Park, Doubledykes Road, St Andrews, KY16 9DP
Opening hours – please contact museum 01334 659380

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