Every art lover knows the unique expressive qualities of glass, and we again got a taste of this in an intriguing exhibition of artists Monica Guggisberg and Philip Baldwin in the only gallery in our country which specializes in modern, contemporary glass art: the Schiepers Gallery in Hasselt. The exhibition runs until April 20. Just admire the photos of their creations, and read our findings and comments…
Text and pictures Hans Knol ten Bensel
The two artists Monica Guggisberg (CH) and Philip Baldwin (USA) have been working as a team since 1980. For twenty years their studio was in Switzerland, and in 2001 they moved to Paris. But since 2015 they have been based in rural Wales, with a view over the hills; a third act in a long nomadic journey, which inspires their art ever more intensely.
The artist Monica Guggisberg.
Their stunning creations breathe a combination of Scandinavian and Venetian glass techniques. It has been a kaleidoscopic journey through every aspect of glass as a medium: purely as a craft, design, art, sculpture, architecture, warm and cold, both simple and pure, as well as complex.
Baldwin and Guggisberg have always been searching for the limits, within the boundaries of a few encompassing themes: love for the material, a profound feeling for art as an expression of beauty, and the desire to put their art in the centre of their daily life, to find pleasure in what they make. The pure clarity of the line is the thread which characterizes their work. They see their work as brief moments of these imaginary lines, solidified in glass.
Their exhibited creations, “Species Novae”, are springing from an older history and tradition. It is light and aims high, as well in form as in spirit. There is pleasure found in the form and shape, the beauty and poetry of these works. Baldwin and Guttisberg use the Venetian incalmo technique in combination with battuto cutting, so characteristic for their creations.
We were also very much smitten by their “boat” creations, which we found both aesthetic and meaningful.
“We are migrating beings.” explains Monica Guggisberg. “The history of our humans is about travelling, leaving, departing, arriving, in a never ending cycle. We are no exception to this rule. Our new work is both cultural and personal. It is an autobiographic touch in a reflection on our civilisation. Wherever men goes, he builds, defines cultural lines and frameworks which evolve over time into artefacts and relics. Urban landscapes and complex designs grow and fall into decay. Then on we go and we take our memories of our heroic acts with us to build the following story. We have always tried to find pleasure in what we do. But life is not always this pleasure. Although our “boat” series is conceived as a tribute to all what is best and valuable in humanity, everything which is hopeful and full of admiration about the world, her mysteries and friendliness, we see today our migrations in a somewhat darker light, as the daily tragedies around us clearly show.”
“We have to embrace these darker sides, take responsability for them and realize that sorrow and misery, darkness and cold intermingle with joy, warmth, light, hope when we travel further”, explains Monica Guggisberg. “It is a voyage of struggle, give and receive and above all, love.”
Gallery owner Sue Schiepers.
Sue Schiepers: a story of passion for glass…
Sue Schiepers (1973) made exhibitions for six years on behalf of the Kunstforum Würth in Turnhout. She has organized solo exhibitions of great musicians such as Christo & Jean-Claude, François Morellet and Stephan Balkenhol, as well as thematic exhibitions on Abstract Graphics, Contemporary Glass, Contemporary Still Life, etc. Her fascination for glass art has actually arisen in a casual way, when composing the glass exhibition ‘Fragile’ for Kunstforum Würth Turnhout. The GlazenHuis in Lommel asked her in 2018 to make an exhibition. Schiepers took up the challenge to set up the exhibition in a very short time. The result was so good that she soon got a proposal for an exhibition in Tel Aviv (exhibition at the end of 2019) and in the United States (exhibition at the beginning of 2020).
Because she noticed that there are many good glass artists in our country and abroad, but in Belgium – in contrast to France, the Netherlands or Germany – was not a gallery specialized in glass, she decided to open her own gallery in 2017. Two years later she looks back with satisfaction on this adventure that has evolved faster than she could dream. The choice to establish her gallery in Hasselt was no coincidence: “Most of my customers come from outside Hasselt. Most of them from abroad. Hasselt was therefore a strategic choice due to its location in the Meuse-Rhine Euregion. The Netherlands, Germany and France therefore have a larger glass past than Belgium. Even though I am pleasantly surprised. There are real glass collectors in our country. ”
Her choice to exhibit contemporary glass art in her gallery is done with good reason. She has acquired a considerable expertise in the art market, and nurtures a true passion for contemporary glass, which she finds is still underrepresented in Belgium. She seeks to change this, everyday again…
Sue Schiepers continues therefore her exhibitions: for this year, she plans further from 11 May to 3 August Kait Rhoads (USA); and from September 28 to December 21, she hosts in her gallery the work of Christine Vanoppen & Wouter Bolangier (BE & BE).
Hans Knol ten Bensel
Schiepers Gallery/Contemporary Glass, Dokter Willemsstraat 30 B, 3500 Hasselt
Opening Hours From Thursday to Saturday, from 14h until 18h. Or by appointment.