Dale Chihuly is back with an intoxicating blend of art and nature.
Quite honestly, it’s very hard to improve Kew Gardens in the springtime. When the sun shines, the cherry blossoms bloom, and the tulips emerge, it’s a pretty stunning place. However, a new art installation currently in residence at Kew aims to do just that, as Chihuly: Reflections on Nature has brought a series of intricate glass sculptures to the gardens – and it opens this Saturday (April 13th).
Reflections on Nature is the work of famed US artist Dale Chihuly, a master of glass-blowing and sculpting. The installation is actually the second time Chihuly has graced Kew with his creations; Gardens of Glass was a major hit back in 2005, and this show is poised to be even better.
32 precious, carefully-constructed glass structures are now in place in the gardens, filling the likes of the Temperate House, Japanese Gateway, and Waterlily House. Drawing on various phases of Chihuly’s career – indeed, the Shirley Sherwood gallery boasts smaller sculptures that trace his progression as an artist – many of the works have never been exhibited in the UK before.
Amongst the most impressive pieces is a chandelier-like creation known as ‘Temperate House Persians’, so-named because it hangs from the glasshouse’s ceiling. Created specially for Temperate House, the blue-hued sculpture makes for a stunning centrepiece, watching over the glass reeds and flowers that have sprung up amongst the flowerbeds.
Further intrigue is to be found outside the Palm House, where a sculpture called ‘Summer Sun’ watches over the lake. Composed of a whopping 1483 glass pieces, the vibrant red installation is an eye-catching addition to the gardens, even under grey skies.
Near to the Victoria Gate, a spiky customer known as ‘Sapphire Star’ brings a celestial flavour to Kew. A sphere of blue spikes radiates outwards, looking a little like an oversized dandelion – and it’s this interplay between art and nature which forms the core of Chihuly’s practice. Kew is actually a formative place for the sculptor; a visit in the late 60s greatly influenced his career and therefore makes Reflections on Nature a spiritual homecoming of sorts.
Perhaps the most tranquil of all the installations is to be found in the Japanese Gateway, where a group of giant glass spheres have been set amongst the Kew’s rock garden. Evoking the fishing floats of Tokyo Bay, ‘Niijima Floats’ is a serene contrast to its pointier counterparts, and a personal favourite of mine.
Reflections on Nature will be in residence at Kew until October 27th, leaving you plenty of time to head down and check it out for yourself. As if to enhance the beauty of the sculptures, Kew Gardens will run a series of ‘Chihuly Nights’ events, lighting up the artworks as dusk falls. A real glass act, this one…
Chihuly: Reflections on Nature runs April 13th-October 27th, and entry is included in your entry to the gardens. Find Kew Gardens in Richmond, TW9 3AB – nearest station is Kew Gardens.
Also published on Medium.