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Artist of the Month
December 2011

Artist of the Month

Bertil Vallien

For more than 40 years, Swedish artist Bertil Vallien has been an innovator of contemporary glass art. Through his command of the material, he beckons the viewer to explore a deeper dimension and awareness of life’s truths.  Every sculpture conceals an existential or mythical story about life, love and/or death. Bertil Vallien is represented by Hawk Galleries, Columbus, Ohio.

Click on each photo to the right for full picture.

Bertil Vallien

Artist of the Month

Artist Statement:

"Glass offers opportunities like no other material. It has everything. For me, the blowing room is the centre of everything. It’s like ladling matter out of a volcano and watching the glowing lava turn to ice. Knowing the exact moment at which to capture a shift of light or expression and wrench the secret from the glass is what it’s all about."

Of the creative process, Bertil Vallien says: “I choose the words, but do not consciously choose their arrangement. The sentences that materialize certainly have no counterpart in my mind; they occur quite by chance.”

About Bertil Vallien

Bertil Vallien is by far the most internationally celebrated glass artist and designer in Sweden. He has received numerous awards and his work is well represented in leading museums around the world. Growing up in Sweden in a devoutly spiritual home, Vallien felt conflicted and believed that the strictures of faith limited his view of the world. It’s those same questions that serve as the underlying foundation of his work today.

After graduating at the top of his class from the National College of Crafts and Design in Stockholm, a 1961 Royal Foundation Grant funded his two year stay in Los Angeles, where he achieved great success as an award winning ceramicist. In 1963 Vallien was recruited by legendary glasshouse director Erik Rosen to be an artist/designer for Afors glassworks in southern Sweden. He has been a driving force in the renewal of the Swedish glass industry for more than 40 years. As art director at Åfors, he was largely responsible for introducing changes in the working routines and raising the level of participation of the glassworkers to the status of skilled and specialized craftsmen.

Bertil Vallien enjoys worldwide fame. He is renowned chiefly for his glass sculptures which he casts in sand – an innovative method in the field of art glass which has enabled him to achieve new and exciting results.

Since the early 1960s, Vallien has been honored for his work in glass. His most impressive accolades include Second Prize at the 1985 Zweiter Coburger Glaspreis in Coburg, Germany; the Visionary Award from the Museum of Arts & Design in New York; the 2005 Gold Medal granted by the Royal Swedish Academy of Engineering Sciences and an Honorary Doctor of Philosophy degree from the University of Växjö, Sweden. Vallien's work is owned by some of the world's most important museums, including the Art Institute of Chicago in Chicago, Illinois; Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, New York; Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Ebeltoft, Denmark; Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, New York; National Museum Stockholm in Stockholm, Sweden and The State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

The interior of Vallien’s sculptures sparkle and glow. It is not the surface, nor the form, but rather the interior that one senses behind the form. Vallien puts a protective skin over his glass sculptures to enclose the light. There, encapsulated, it leads a life of its own and becomes a cosmos of mythical colors, fantastical forms, and universal archetypes.

Vallien’s artistry is multi-faceted and always refers to human life – from questions of faith and unknown, mythical worlds, to man’s destruction in the archaeological sculptures, in which the horrors of war are hidden in fragments of a lost civilization.

The term “Sand-cast glass” has come to be inextricably linked with Bertil Vallien. He took up and developed this originally industrial technique and continues to explore its possibilities. Each technical advance widens and enhances his artistic range, generating countless cycles of themes and motifs- starting in the 1960-70s with the metaphysical boats and continuing with torsos and monoliths, to the broad and narrow slabs of glass resembling runic stones, or prehistoric “maps” indicating archaeological finds, infused within the congealed glass.

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Acknowledgment of Gallery:
We are grateful to Hawk Galleries of Columbus, Ohio, for providing the materials for the Artist of the Month.

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The Art Alliance for Contemporary Glass is a not-for-profit organization whose mission is to further the development and appreciation of art made from glass.

The Alliance informs collectors, critics and curators by encouraging and supporting museum exhibitions, university glass departments and specialized teaching programs, regional collector groups, visits to private collections, and public seminars.