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The Ivy: Glass Screen

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I had never worked with glass before. When invited to make a glass screen for The Ivy restaurant, I asked around for advice and all roads of enquiry pointed to Alex Beleschenko. We met and he offered to teach me how to realise the ideas I had. It was under his painstaking tutelage that much of the work was done in his Swansea studio. I made the learning process part of the work. This was possible since the piece, being subject to fire regulations, had to be divided into many elements. Each of the square panes became an experiment in treatment or combinations of treatment since both sides of each section was worked on. Once I got the hang of things I carried on with the less dangerous processes in my own studio, or rather its adjacent bathroom (immortalised in Peter Greenaway's 26 Bathrooms as the 'Samuel Beckett Memorial Bathroom' by virtue of its authentic pre-war squalor).

With a grid already imposed on it, the screen (since all the elements used the same motif of the cross extending to each corner, echoing The Ivy's original latticed windows) became a transparent trellis through which the activity of the restaurant beyond can be sensed rather than perceived. From inside the restaurant my own untainted glass feeds off the vivid colours of a stained glass window by Patrick Caulfield.

The screen is made up of two hundred and twenty five identical pieces of Pilkington's 6mm clear glass each individually treated by me, using a variety of resists and etching/engraving procedures. The original intention of firing with coloured glazes was abandoned after many tests in favour of the homogeneity of the interaction of glass itself with the changing light and the kaleidoscopic traffic of a busy restaurant. As a relic of the colour tests some traces of pigment were left on a dozen or so pieces.

The resists used included:- beeswax, woodglue, car spraypaint, ivy leaves, metallic gold pigment, aquatint, resin, masking tape, tallow, evostick, sellotape, fablon, gumstrip, candlewax, packing tape, bostik, vaseline, etcher's hardground and paper stencils.The tools for surface working included:- carborundum stone, diamond pointer graver, dentist's drill bits, scalpel, brush, fingers, twigs, knife, sandblasting, direct-fired glaze, grinding powder. White acid was used (at various timings) as well as neat and dilute hydrofluoric acid and its fumes.

Around the bar of the restaurant a second area of glass gave an opportunity to link the main glass screen with the diamond gridded windows of the restaurant, echoing the technique of the one with a stylised version of the pattern of the other. These etched windows (housed in a rather assertive wooden structure) are seen from the restaurant interior as rising above a shelf on which will stand a word sculpture and a version of Bubble and Squeak.

The art of glass is making movies. My disappointment with all attempts to catch its qualities in a photograph have served to make me understand how it uniquely combines mutability with stasis. All around it that changes will change it, including the smallest shift of its observers gaze. The restlessness that it registers, as if it were some liquid camera, asserts its own stillness.

Works & Texts (1992) p.168