Aptly-named “The Spirit ofTransparency,” China’s firstinternational exhibition ofcontemporary glass artworkwas presented by the China Academy ofArt in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, fromJanuary 10 to 25. Nearly 100 pieces of artby 30 glass artists from both home andabroad were displayed to the public for thevery first time. Focusing on the crystallinetexture of glass as a substance, the exhibitalso endeavored to pinpoint the culturalessence of every artifact.
In Western countries, glass craftsmanshiphas been regarded as an essentialgenre of art for a long time, which hashelped its artists become quite accomplishedin terms of technique and abilitywith both practical products and artisticworks. In China, not until the 1950s didthe first group of people begin spreadingknowledge of decorative glassware uponfinishing studies in Eastern Europe, whereWestern glass craftsmanship had alreadydeveloped into fields of professional designand contemporary art. Due to the collapseof relations with the Soviet Union, Chinaremained isolated from European informationon such subjects for several decades,which left the country’s glass craftsmanshipstuck to practical products rather thanindependent contemporary art.
During the final decade of the past century,China’s first glass art department wasestablished at Shanghai University’s Academyof Fine Arts, where Andrew Brewerton,jury chair for the inaugural British BiennaleGlass Exhibition, served as an honoraryprofessor. When a group of energetic youngglass artists who had been mentored byBrewerton in the U.K. returned to China,China’s contemporary glass art began seeinghealthy development and attracted anumber of ceramic artists to diversify theirwork. Still, decorative-oriented ideas continuedto dominate guidelines of glass artdesign at the time. “Unlike the widespreadceramics which had cultivated uniquelifestyles and cultural perspectives, Chinahad no experience mass producing glass,”comments Xu Jiang, president of the CentralAcademy of Fine Arts.