By N. Balani
TORONTO: Henry David Thoreau once said: “This world is but a canvas to our imagination.”
The special display of hand-blown glass art by the world famous Dale Chihuly at the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto breathes new meaning into those words. For those of you who are not familiar with his work, the Chihuly exhibit is a wonderful experience which will have you mesmerized just taking in the colour and beauty of his works. It is certainly very hard to put a name or to try to box Chihuly into one category as he rightly says “I’m an artist, a designer, a craftsman, interior designer, half- architect. There’s no one name that fits me very well.”
Chihuly is a graduate in interior design who was greatly influenced by Venice and has explored glass techniques in Finland, Ireland (Waterford crystal) and Mexico. His art has been displayed in many permanent and travelling exhibitions in over 200 museums worldwide.
In 1976, Chihuly was involved in a car accident and was blinded in his left eye which affected his depth and perception. But this did not diminish his love for glass or his ability to interpret art in glass design. Chihuly explained as he could no longer hold the heavy glass blowing pipe he works with a large team who have trained directly under him. In a 2006 interview, he said that it allowed him to see the work from a different perspective and from the outside. Chihuly describes his role as “more choreographer than dancer, more supervisor than participant, more director than actor.”
There are no words that can do justice to Chihuly’s creations and it is true that “a picture paints a thousand words”. He truly breathes life into glass and makes it come alive with depth, movement and colour. It is hard to believe how heavy each of these pieces can be and yet appear to be ethereal. The exhibit is painstakingly put together fragile piece by fragilr piece by a special team. The first exhibit are two large boats (influence of the Venice waterways) filled with beautiful but large over-sized Murano- like glass balls and the second boat is filled with a stunning display of underwater images of shells, seaweed and sea creatures.
In the next room the visitor is arrested by the sight of flaming baskets in blazing orange colour. It really looks like fires are burning and draw you into their warmth and pull you in with their amazing light and colour displays.
Also stunning are his works with large glass icicles in shades of coral, green and fire orange, which resemble either larger than life fir trees or are placed individually as huge chandeliers on the ceiling.
His collection of Basket series (on display) are inspired by Native American hand woven baskets and are extremely large, stand alone baskets with smaller baskets within them in shades of silken gold and few touches of red.
The larger collections consist of innumerable pieces of hand blown glass put together with metallic wire to hold them together as a collective display of an underwater lagoon (on display) with colourful sea creatures, sea weed creations and shells fills up an entire room. The light filters through the glass creating numerous shades and hues of amber, turquoise, and emerald green. As Dale Chihuly himself so aptly puts it, “I want people to be overwhelmed with light and color in a way they have never experienced.”
When you walk into the room where there is a miniature ceiling filled with hand blown glass flowers and cherubs of all colours and shapes and sizes your mind is on colour and emotional overload – like a child in the candy store, you just can not love and want one – you want it all! The sensation on your eyes, brain, mind are so powerfully hit by the sight before you that you are just stunned and frozen and do not want to take your eyes of the ceiling.
So whether you are in the GTA or anywhere in Ontario please do include this on your must do holiday season list and make an outing to the Royal Ontario Museum and fill your senses with cheer! The exhibit is on until January 8.