Vancouver Glass artist and CCBC member Hope Forstenzer has taken the time to provide us with an in-depth review of Laura Murdoch’s Looking Glass: Apertura Series on view now at the Craft Council’s Granville Island Shop and Gallery. Hope Forstenzer has lived most of her life in and around New York City, and is now living in Vancouver, Canada. Her work has been shown at D’Adamo Woltz Gallery in Seattle, and at both New-Small & Sterling and The Seymour Art Gallery in the Vancouver area, as well as being sold at Vancouver’s East Side Culture Crawl. She teaches and works out of Terminal City Glass Co-op.
The first thing you notice about Laura Murdoch’s Looking Glass: Apertura Series (at the CCBC Gallery on Granville Island through September 24) is the colours. Against the white of the gallery walls, the works seem like candy or fresh fruit or summer popsicles – reds, oranges, pinks, purples, all bright and full of energy. When the sun hits them through the skylight and windows they seem to become extensions of the sunshine itself; they fill the space with their own light. Then the patterns emerge, and you draw closer, and realize that the patterns themselves have patterns. And then you’re hooked, and your face is inches away from one of the pieces, your eyes wide open.
“When the sun hits them through the skylight and windows they seem to become extensions of the sunshine itself”
Laura Murdoch’s career has entered its third decade, and she has carved her own way, literally and figuratively, in the world of glass. Murdoch’s work almost exclusively makes use of the Swedish Graal technique – a process by which glass is blown into a thick coloured cup and then, when the cup has cooled, a pattern is carved into it with acid, sandblasting, a diamond saw, or a lathe (or a combination of these tools). Then the cup is reheated, picked back up on a glassblowing pipe, and blown out into a form.
Most artists would do this a single time, creating work that expands and distends the pattern in the original Graal cup by blowing it out into a vessel, and the results of this process can be stunning. Murdoch goes farther and does this process repeatedly – patterned cup inside of patterned cup – leading to single forms with multiple colours and multiple patterns. They become puzzles to put together as you look at them, changing based on the angle of your view, how close you’re looking, and the light.
“The shapes are purposefully simple, and the pieces are meant to be only what they are: wild optical journeys that trend towards the hypnotic, adventures on their own terms”
This process has served her well, and her long history with light fixtures and giant, intricate, wild vase forms (a few of which make a guest appearance in this show), use those patterns decoratively, to lend movement and energy to pieces with a practical use. But the majority of the pieces in Apertura have taken her work into a new place, one that has more confidence in the power of the patterned vessels as things unto themselves. The shapes are purposefully simple, and the pieces are meant to be only what they are: wild optical journeys that trend towards the hypnotic, adventures on their own terms. They are heavy and thick-walled, often crosscut like geodes, and looking into them reveals layer upon layer of pattern and colour, working in concert to create a whole.
While one or two of the works seem not quite finished – a hole here is hard to see through, the polished look of most of the pieces is missing there – the overall effect is cohesive and self-assured. It’s also a pleasure to see it in person. If you can get yourself down to Granville Island while the weather is still fine, you won’t be sorry to mask up and spend some time wandering and peering and imagining what exciting direction Murdoch will go next from here.