Susan Jones looks at the practice of Sabrina Cant, who works with glass, including her commission for Bookham United Reform Church.
Sabrina Cant is drawn to the landscape and the mysterious qualities it can provoke. Through her glass works, she attempts to capture the simplicity and harmony of the material through colour and mood. Taking much of her inspiration from abstract and landscape painters such as Turner and Rothko, her ambition is for us to touch the end of the rainbow.
Speaking about her motivations, Sabrina Cant said: Aspects of nature sometimes become surreal in our everyday perceptions. Tranquil and mysterious, a scene in nature may draw you in to its beauty. Evocative of childhood, the power of movement, colour and light propels you towards a magical world, taking you far beyond the boundaries of your garden; discovering one world through another, liberating the desire to explore and prompting all sorts of unforeseen adventures. The diversity of the landscape expresses many different things in a language most of us understand. We all experience nature. Most people relate to an experience of nostalgia, fear or happiness reflected through an encounter with landscape.
A commission completed in 2007 arose after the artist was approached by Suzie Dunsmore of Bookham United Reform Church, Surrey, whod seen her work in the RCA 2004 MA degree show catalogue. Rather than typical stained glass with literal interpretations, she wanted instead to commission a coloured window that would give joy and hope to the church congregation. Initially the design was to be a colourscape vertically merging from deep red through to blue. The 140x53cm sculpture would weigh about 60kg. It was already an ambitious project and was about to get more demanding still.
After I sent Suzie an invitation for a touring exhibition that included a detail from work of mine that incorporated a cross, we agreed a total redesign: something that could both capture the cross of light so symbolic to Christians and satisfy my own interest in nature by producing a spectacular star effect. This would be a truly three-dimensional piece, now weighing in it at 90 kilos!
I expected the work to be wrought with breakages and glass-related torment but the opposite was true. From making the moulds, packing the kiln and firing and polishing, there wasnt so much as chip. Even the installation, that involved raising the huge structure up about nine feet, went without a hitch. Angel, as I had come to call the window, sat comfortably in the pretty, white church as if it had been there since the church had been built over 100 years ago. Its thick yellow back pane and fused deep blue panels bounced light, colour and iridescence with such vibrancy that a rare occasion took place in my artistic life: I was totally satisfied with a work that had proved its purpose. You might have thought it was a case of divine intervention.
Sabrina Cant has a studio on Eel Pie Island, Twickenham. In July 2007 she became the 7,200th artist to sign up for AIR Artists Interaction and Representation, the membership for practising artists that is an integral element of a-ns Artist subscription. Her exhibitions include Flora and Forna, Obsidian gallery in 2007 and in 2006, she showed in Celebration of young British glass Artists, Church Gallery, Devon, British Glass Biennale and Peter Layton and Friends 30 years celebration, touring until October 2007. She was selected for One Year On in 2005 and New Designers in 2004 when she also won the Bombay Sapphire Prize for contemporary glass.
A former artist, Susan Jones is a published writer and researcher on the visual arts and Director and Publisher, a-n The Artists Information Company.
First published: a-n.co.uk August 2007
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