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You have learned the basics and techniques of glass blowing for three years. When did you decide to break with traditional glass blowing and become an artist?

The trigger was a change in my school. I had completed my 3 years at the Kosta School of Glass, where I only focused on technology, and switched to a design school on Bornholm, where the focus was on the result. I had resolved to be very open to the other approach to the craft that the school in Bornholm would offer me. In the beginning it was difficult for me to let go of my perfectionism and my fascination for classic glass blowing. But when I got there, when I understood what it meant to rediscover a material, there was no going back. I’ve always been curious about what’s possible with glass, and I think it was a very natural development for me. I always want to go one step further and I love to discover new things. That is probably also the reason

“Glass is a material that is still partially undiscovered”

Maria Bang Espersen

 

Why is glass such a fascinating material for you?

First, it is fascinating and challenging to work with glass in the molten state. I love the challenges that constant technical progress enables.

Second, it is a material that is still partially undiscovered. In contrast to clay, for example, glass has only been part of a studio movement since the 1960s. Before that it was only relevant in factory production. That means there is still so much to learn. Glass can still surprise us and reveal new aspects of itself. One example is my 2012 project called Craftformation. Here I use compressed air to explode glass, which turns it into superfine glass threads.

Thirdly, it is a material that, due to its transparency, offers space for many metaphors and thus differs from any other material. Glass has great artistic potential.

I found a very inspiring quote on your website: “Transparency is such a mess – it means both; that you look right through it and that something is clear. Please don’t look through it. Welcome to the present. ” (2017) Do you see glass as a symbol for our modern life? If yes why?

I don’t see glass as a metaphor for modern life, but I think it has the potential. Also, I find it fascinating that transparency and clarity are words that are used metaphorically in contradicting ways. To see things clearly means to know something, but at the same time transparency means invisibility, and therefore it becomes something that cannot be seen or is not known. I use this conceptual framework in some of my work.

“For me, art has become a political tool with so much potential.”

Many of your sculptures have political messages. For example, in the “National Costume” project you address questionable political decisions by the Danish government on refugee issues. Is your art often inspired by political events? 

Yes it will. I think it is important to be culturally and politically concerned with what is happening. Danish politics has been going in the wrong direction for some time, and that’s why I just can’t help but get involved in this discourse.

maria bang espersen national costume

National Costume

The bad treatment of foreigners, including refugees, by the Danish government seems to me just cruel. It is a discourse that we should never forget and that needs to be constantly addressed. Just because I’m an artist doesn’t mean I can’t act. For me, art has become a political tool with so much potential.

Do you see yourself as a political artist?

I do. I even consider the less obvious glasswork to be political. They are political in a different way than “National Costume”, for example, but I don’t think any act is entirely outside of politics. All we do is exchange with the world in which it exists. My abstract glass sculptures are gently political; they question conventions and traditional ideas about what glass is and can be, simply by offering an alternative. They try to push our limits and open our eyes to the possibility that things can always be different. My work seems to say, “There is always another way” and that fits very well into a larger political discussion of norms and traditions.

Maria Bang Espersen

Soon your work will be exhibited in the Victoria and Albert Museum London, one of the world’s leading art museums. How does that feel to you?

According to a friend of mine who was there recently, my art is already on display at the V&A. This recording makes me overly happy and honored that the museum decided to purchase two pieces from the Soft Series. It’s exciting to know that they will continue to be part of this collection and will be available for generations to come. The recognition at this level is breathtaking to me and I really appreciate it.

From November 14th to 17th, 2019, your work will be shown at the Affordable Art Fair in Hamburg. How important are art fairs for you as an artist?

Art fairs are important because of the large number of visitors and because of “unexpected” visitors. Individual galleries often have audiences of their own, but an art fair expands the group of people you reach. I always enjoy sharing my work with a new audience and making new buyers and admirers.

“Never think that your work is not good enough.”

What do you think is the most important skill to become a famous artist other than creating wonderful and inspiring works of art? 

I don’t know if I’m the right person to answer this question, but I’ll make a few notes on what has been important to me over the years of making glass sculptures.

An artist has to be really good at a lot of things, not just design. That is often difficult. In the beginning I applied for everything I could find. This often takes a long time, but it seems to be necessary in order to make one’s art known in the beginning. In addition, it is important to have good photos of the artwork, and it is often useful to be able to write and network well. The most important piece of advice I can give to others is to keep believing in yourself and not get discouraged by anything. Never think that your work is not good enough, just apply for anything. You never know when you will suddenly get an opportunity or a prize that you never thought would have been possible.

Maria Bang Espersen

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