on Neil Wilkin: is glass ice’s cousin?

Purple icicle chandelier
Purple Icicle Chandelier

For those poor souls who live in geographies without natural ice formations, glass art might be your next best bet. And Neil Wilkin’s art might just satisfy the need, especially if my theory rings true about glass being an ice substitute – visually, metaphorically – when it comes to decorative arts.

If ice is water frozen in temperature and time, is it possible that transparent glass is ice’s cousin – reconfigured sand stilled from deliriously liquefying temperatures into an ice substitute – a younger relative and replica of ice, freed from (melting) time?

Neil Wilkin is a master craftsman who handles the fusion of glass and ice’s almost visually interchangeable identification with an intelligent and playful approach.

Ice sculptures could, possibly, replicate slender glass gothic icicles fit for a bat cave (a thought suggested by Wilkin’s purple icicle chandelier above), or boat-sized lilies:

Blue Fountain (photo Guus Rijven)
Blue Fountain (photo Guus Rijven)

or plants turned to ice in a desert, or grass, and the thought of frozen grass:

Golden Cactus
Golden Cactus
Glass-Grass-Neil-Wilkin-199
Glass Grass (photo Guus Rijven)

Ice sculptures might be able to do all this, but only for a season or less. Glass sculptures … glass sculptures think physically of these things and hold the thought for longer.

Ground Icicles (photo Guus Rijven)
Ground Icicles (photo Guus Rijven)
Cat-tails In Frost
Cat-tails In Frost
Icicle Chandelier sketch on the beach
Icicle Chandelier sketch on the beach

I’m riffing off the images without chatting with Wilkin himself about this. In his work I see a willingness to take a material that’s difficult to handle (it’s physically hot, heavy and temperamental) and mess around with it to explore its ice-like possibilities. I see a playfulness that doesn’t have to insist on being “correct” and in this creativity I see a nimble mind would probably carve something wonderful out of ice, too, if Wilkin could be at least temporarily converted from one temperature extreme to another.

Neil Wilkin has been working with hot and cold glass since the late 1970s, and is considered one of the leading glass artists in the UK. Ignoring debates about distinctions between decorative and fine art, craft and concept-driven creation, he and Sarah Wilkin (his assistant and wife) make works both for commission and for exhibition. The pair are usually based in Gloucestershire, UK, but travel globally to work on commissions. Currently, they’re based in Broome, Australia.

More information and photos can be found at www.neilwilkin.com. All images by Neil Wilkin unless otherwise noted; all used with permission.

Neil Wilkin himself (photo uncredited)
Neil Wilkin himself (photo uncredited)

1 thought on “on Neil Wilkin: is glass ice’s cousin?”

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