Kjell Engman – ‘Ken Dancer III’

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Description

Artist: Kjell Engman
Title: ‘Ken Dancer III’
Medium: Art Glass
Dimensions: Sculpture – 15.5 inches. Custom Base (Kjell Engman) 33 inches
Origin: Stockholm, Sweden
Provenance: James Pongrass Collection
Exhibited: Kosta Boda, New York, 1999

“”Kjell Engman is the Story-Teller of the Kingdom of Crystal, a weaver of magical tales. That his background is the artist’s palette is clearly reflected in his glass, which is often engraved or etched. And, of course, the draughtsman’s pencil and painter’s brush are themes which recur throughout his production.”
– Kosta Boda 15.5″ in height. It rests atop a custom 33″ base which illuminates the object by providing an inner light. The wooden bases exterior is textured to create the effect of ancient rusted metal. In the object, ribbons of color are woven, enveloping bubbles that glisten in concentric rings floating throughout. The connection with legend and myth is reinforced by the artist’s creation of the surface patina.”

In 1998–99, he exhibited dancers with massive yet light-footed glass bodies. The colour scale was dark, with shades of red, brown, blue and green. These expressive figures were painstakingly realized in the hot shop, where Engman and master glassblower Tuomo Nieminen work in close cooperation.
‘I tried to capture movement, to use it together with the light to enhance the expressiveness of the dancers,’ he says. ‘They seem to have a rhythmic quality about them.’ Engman’s latest installation, Gränslandet, consisting of brightly coloured bird-like forms, relates a romanticized story of the artist’s Borderland – ‘That magical place between heaven, land and sea where all thing happen’. For the artist, this is the region where water meets light, and where it sometimes crystallizes and captures light. Indeed, Engman likens his sculptures to a photographic plate, in that they arrest a natural movement in glass like a photograph captures a moment in time, thereby magnifying and intensifying that natural movement so that it can be brought into sharper focus and take on a clearer meaning for the viewer. Light has a strong presence in the Gränslandet installation, as does intense colour and a design language that uses refined combinations of patterns with opaque and clear open surfaces. Experimentation with the way glass plays with light has introduced dimensions of contrast – glass against stone, light against heavy, metal and glass, matt (Refand shiny; and the contrast between graceful and grotesque as demonstrated in the curious bird-forms of the Borderland. Each sculpture is mounted on a purpose-built, sturdy metal plinth which doubles as a source of illumination, projecting a bright beam of light through the base of each piece. Combined with the reflected light from heavily textured and vividly coloured surfaces, the transmitted light from the interior of the sculptures creates a most spectacular visual effect. This is all the more enthralling on close inspection because contained beneath the mostly opaque surface of each form exists another universe, a phantasmagoria of imagery, both figurative and symbolic as well as abstract. The relationship between glass and light is paramount. Light travels in a straight line but the artist wants it to bend in different ways as seen in a reflection on water. It is difficult to imagine the trials and tribulations that must have transpired in order to realise these objects in glass, given that Engman has at his disposal a team of 12 assistants who are among the finest technicians in the field. No solitary glass artist could aspire to make such pieces. Even with the full resources of Kosta Boda and generations of technical expertise to draw upon, the task must have been challenging. On viewing Gränslandet, it is feasible to speculate that the larger works could not have materialized anywhere else other than Kosta Boda. (Ref – Earnest Reinfeld)