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WIDEWALLS 2015

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Crafts Magazine, 2003

 
  YELLOW CUT VESSEL WITH STEEL LID. 2001

YELLOW CUT VESSEL WITH STEEL LID. 2001

 
 

Anna Dickinson’s exhibition at Ben Jansen’s gallery is a celebration of craftsmanship at its best. The fifteen vessels on show represent a year’s work It is immensely refreshing to see a body of work made by an artist committed to perfecting each and every aspect of the making processes involved. All the pieces combine blown glass with either wood or different kinds of metal. The end result is the epitome of classical elegance. There is no pretence here; these are not vessels trying to be sculpture, just vessels whose strength lies in the artist’s perfect understanding of the sonnet like containment of the idiom.

As is often the case with sublime elegance, the work looks effortless despite the detailed thought and long hours of labour involved in arriving at this degree of perfection. Forms, colours, textures and the marriage of materials have all been lovingly honed to perfection by head, heart and hand. Anna Dickinson cannot work in a hurry. She deliberates long and hard during each of the many stages involved. The process begins when she takes her notebook full of drawings to Neil Wilkin’s studio. She has worked with this master glass blower for many years and the two have established a rare degree of understanding. Some of the pieces are free blown, others blown into a mould. There is a lot of trial and error involved in arriving at a stage where Anna Dickinson feels that she has a perfect blank to work on. All the pieces in this exhibition either have lids or collars in a material other than glass. In order to produce these Anna Dickinson has worked with the silversmith Alex Brogden, (a long time friend whom she met as a student at Middlesex Polytechnic), Bert Marsh the wood turner and Les, a retired metal worker in the Old Kent Road who she is delighted to have found. Each of them produces a ‘raw’ component part after lengthy discussions over Anna Dickinson’s preparatory drawings. The different materials used in combination with glass (steel, copper, silver, aluminium and wood) are carefully chosen. Part of Anna’s enjoyment lies in finding exactly the right marriage of materials. In the past most of her work was electroformed and she began to feel pigeon-holed by that process . In this exhibition only two pieces have been finished using this process. She has found new delight in carefully applying unique patinas to the different metals now involved.. She brings to her patinas the subtlety of paint and the softness of fabric.

 
 
  BLACK CUT VESSEL WITH SILVER LID. 2003.

BLACK CUT VESSEL WITH SILVER LID. 2003.

 
 

The lids are a new and very successful departure, adding a new dimension to her work that comes from the interplay of two separate elements and the way they fit together so beautifully both from an aesthetic and a mechanical point of view. The lids are also used as a way of extending the possibilities of form adding resolution and closure.

Anna Dickinson now spends far more time cutting and polishing her work – before she farmed out the more complex cuts - and the difference is very noticeable. She brings a degree of perfection to the grooved or grid-like patterns in each piece that no third party could possibly achieve and can spend up to ten days polishing a piece. Some of the pieces are sliced. The grooved and grid-like patterns work best: the slicing can be too stark. Another new departure for Anna Dickinson is the introduction of muted colours. In the past she has limited herself on the whole to black, white or smoky browns and greys. Here we see green, yellow, blue and pink, inspired she says by carpets and paintings seen in the gallery where the exhibition is held, a gallery devoted principally to Asian art. All pieces are made of at least two and sometimes three layers of glass. The colours are never obvious and she achieves soft warm tones by mixing basic glass colours with a foundation or in between layer of pale grey rather than white. Though the final result of this stunning show looks completely natural, nothing whatsoever has been left to chance in creating that effect. “I have to keep on working till I get a perfect piece” she says.

Dan Klein, 1938-2009