The medium of glass has long fascinated me as a form of artistic expression. Delicate, precious, precariously fragile, and within this fragility lies its power to remind us of the vulnerabilities of our human nature.
Blaschka draws from this medium to create beguiling models of animals and plants, inspired by new scientific discoveries of the time.
Norwich Castle displays a collection described as ‘crystal creatures that are the crossroads between science and art.’
The idea of this crossroads intrigued me because science and art are, in many ways, at odds. Science in its search for objective rational truth, the curious, questioning mind seeking clarity – and art with its subjective emotive truth, at ease with the unknown and producing playful interpretations of what the answers ‘could be.’
In this way, the relationship between science and art seems one of tension and Blaschka captures and suspends this tension within his art.
Take my favourite model, Crystal ‘jelly’ Marine Hydrazoan, an intricate collision of reality and peculiarity.
At first glance, the jelly fish appears a representation of a real creature that could be drawn from a new scientific discovery. Yet the ethereal glimmer of its body and slight sway in the tentacles’ gives a hint of ’other’, of alluring ambiguity. Blaschka subverts reality with his own artistic spin. We can not quite be sure where this jelly fish is from, our world or somewhere else?
Spiny Starfish (demonstrating re-growth of a severed limb) has a very specific name, suggesting that it is truly a replica taken from the natural world. However, this starfish is dotted with what appear to be shining pearls, far too elaborate to be on a real star fish, alluding to a sense of enchantment, just a touch, but enough for our imagination to wonder, as though this star fish could just as well be from a different realm. To my mind, the realm Blaschka creates is one of mesmerising mystery.
The story behind the models lends to this sense of mystery. Blanchka’s techniques were a closely guarded secret. Norwich Castle believe that it is likely the models were created by holding glass over a single flame, the truth remains a mystery.