Mysteriously suspended in a gleaming transparent glass form, a delicate vision emerges: a field, an oak tree, a path through woods or a copse. Soft colours of lavender, plum or pale yellow within the shimmering reflective glass provide an atmospheric lustre into which darker lines and fragile thread-like strands form into the image of a landscape. Captured in Helen Slater’s highly accomplished glass artworks, landscapes seem to float in time like a memory.
Qualities of the material are exploited with technical brilliance as the glass is made to magnify, refract, distort or obscure; it shines, reflects, glistens and at times may appear frosted or hazy. It plays with the illusion of oscillation, depth and three-dimensionality in a nod to the tradition of Op Art; as the viewer shifts position around the piece, subtle changes in how the image is seen occur making these living dynamic objects. Bubbles and other tiny process traces always remind us that these are individually made art pieces.
All these characteristics give the works an elusive, dream-like ethereal quality; they make us question what we see and prompt our own memory of places like those depicted in the drawn interior.
This is sometimes accentuated by the use of differing surface sheens, from clear to obscure, so that we have to look more closely into the glass in order to make out the image through the misted surface.
Involving the viewer in visualising the image is an important aspect of Helen Slater’s work; in the space where finding the image takes place, the viewer places their own experience in the work. We are not only prompted to recollect but also to consider how places have a history, how they change over time. Today we are becoming increasingly concerned about our natural environment and it is therefore particularly relevant that we should discover clues deep in the drawn subject of these glassworks that allude to environmental change.
The fascination with how the medium of glass can act as a facilitator in transforming the pictorial two dimensional into a perceived three dimensional has led her to carry out an extended project leading to a PhD in Glass Research at the Royal College of Art. She has produced a distinct body of work that investigates the optical perception of image in glass. These kiln formed ‘Lenticular Designs’ explore optical illusion; concentric rings, circles and lines in geometric arrangements create the illusion of movement in hypnotic mesmerising waves and shifts as the viewer moves around them. The glass transforms the image and the image becomes visible through the viewers interaction.
The middle ground between her optical work and the landscape themes does not of course have a defined division; hers is a working process that allows a number of concerns to integrate and cross over as she constantly seeks to deepen and develop these exciting and thought provoking glass works.
Helen Slater trained at Sunderland University and the Royal College of Art completing her MA in 1996. Between 2013 and 2020, she undertook a PhD in The Optical Perception of Image in Glass. She has an impressive record of exhibiting nationally and internationally. She participated in the British Glass Biennale in 2019 and 2017, London Design Week in 2018, Contemporary Applied Art, London in 2013 and 2010, and the Venice Biennale in 1996. She has participated in numerous gallery shows including those in Cork in 2018 and 2016 and in Hamburg in 1997. In 1997, she won the Charlie Bray Award for Glasswork. Her work appears in collections in the UK and USA. In 2020, she became a permanent gallery artist with Artwave West in Dorset.