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Emire Konuk: Glass Sculpture

by Brett LITTMAN

"One material sums up the idea of atmosphere and may be thought of as embodying a universal function in the modern environment.  That material is GLASS.  Advertising calls it the 'material of the future' a future which, as we all know, will be itself 'transparent.' Glass is thus the material used and the ideal to be achieved, both ends and means".

Jean Baudrillard

The System of Objects


Emire Konuk is an artist who brings something new to the dialogue. Originally she was trained as a filmmaker and as sculptor in both Paris and Istanbul.  Intrigued and inspired by glass sculptures she saw in France, Konuk was able to secure special permission to work in the cold-work atelier at the famous Pasabahçe Glassworks in Istanbul upon her return to Turkey.



Recently I have been thinking a lot about Baudrillard's ideas on glass.  Is it really the material of the future as he says or has its time come and gone?  It seems as though that glass has continued to be a dominant material in the modern world.  It pervades our culture and is now encountered on many levels from: packaging, bottles, windows, lens, fiber optics, tabletop, design, architecture and art.  What glass signifies today is stable transparency, a kind of unveiling of the seeable, a clarity and pureness of experience.  Even plastic is trying to mimic glass.  Just look at the Apple imac and G4 designs with their colored transparent shells that allow us to peek inside and see what makes these incredibly complicated machines function. 

But is transparency that simple and ideal?  Glass is not easy to work with.  If it is not cast and annealed properly it can shatter or even worse explode.  If it is cut the wrong way it cannot be crumpled up like clay and be reused.  It might take hours or days to fix. It is malleable but hard to control in its natural ebbs and flows.  It can be soft and organic or angular and hard. Glass is enigmatic.  It is liquid made solid, an anomaly of nature. It is beauty, fragility, strength, nature, artifice, science, emotion, spirituality and the mundane all wound up into one clear container.  So what is a sculptor to do with this strange and wonderfully complex material?

 

Emire Konuk is an artist who brings something new to the dialogue. Originally she was trained as a filmmaker and as sculptor in both Paris and Istanbul.  Intrigued and inspired by glass sculptures she saw in France, Konuk was able to secure special permission to work in the cold-work atelier at the famous Pasabahçe Glassworks in Istanbul upon her return to Turkey. During this time she explored many different hot and cold glass techniques in order to better understand the material.  Later, Konuk opened her own glass studio in Istanbul were she continued her explorations.  The resulting vessels, bowls and sculptures were all studies in how glass reacts and responds to different types of manipulation.  Probably because of her experience with other artistic idioms Konuk has been able to evince from the material a more holistic sense of its dialectics and its profound philosophical underpinnings.  In her sculptures glass becomes the perpetual present that wards off the Nietzschene Eternal Recurrence of the Same.  It is the merging of harmony and dissonance and of clarity and the unknown.  It is birth and death and the union of the mountains, sea and air.

 

Konuk's lead and glass sculptures are bold evocative forms.  There success relies on their ability to balance weight with airiness and transparency with opacity.  They are minimal and emotional all at the same time.  In many of the pieces the glass is kinetic and on the move. It is volcanic and explosive, sometimes clear or with a reddish tint.  It is as if there is some unknown force pressing it out of its confinement in the lead boxes.  The glass creates an almost filmic series of impressions and views as one walks around the object.  It mirrors, distorts and refracts the world around it and stands in stark contrast the solid lead that encases it like a protective armor. 

In other sculptures, Konuk uses lead as a framing device for the glass.  One piece reminds me of the famous abstract paintings of Mark Rothko.  In Konuk's work, however, the red color band interacts with the natural light and changes hues and intensity over time, which is something that Rothko's paintings can only hint at.  In another sculpture, a large amber form resembling a drop of water floats in a vast clear glass square.  The glass is surrounded by roughly cut lead blocks that adds a certain density and ground the piece firmly on the ground.  There is also a powerful tall red glass sculpture that sits on a lead base.  This piece stands out because of its strong geometry and its erect and upward motion that is quite different from the other softer organic forms in Konuk's oeuvre. 

Glass' ability to capture and diffuse light adds a spiritual dimension that metal rarely offers alone.  The glass encourages and invites us to look inside, through and beyond Emire Konuk's sculptures to experience their full meaning.

Catalog essay for Emire Konuk's exhibition in Paris, France, June 2001.

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@The Light Millennium magazine was created and designed
by Bircan ÜNVER. 6th issue. Summer 2001, New York.
URL: http://www.lightmillennium.org