A photographer by profession with a particular interest in portraiture, Hugh Findletar is naturally drawn to the peculiarities of the human form, and his glass creations draw inspiration from this vocation.
Jamaican by birth, Hugh completed his artistic training in New York before arriving in Milan, and as such he is accustomed to fusions of cultures. In Murano glass he found an expressive medium with which to create his ironic –perhaps even unforgiving – yet somehow affectionate interpretations of the human face.
Hugh accentuates the facial features and, mysteriously (or perhaps not, if we think of recent genetic research) – his faces show the futility of racial barriers, highlighting the similarities that exist between people from all over the world. During a period working in a glass factory in Kenya, a country that does not have a strong glass – making tradition, Hugh created his first simple, yet technically admirable works in glass. He then decided to seek training from an expert from Murano.
When he arrived in Murano, the home of European glass art, Hugh serendipitously entered the Zanetti Murano glassworks where he began to collaborate with renowned master Oscar Zanetti, heir to a ancient glassmaking dynasty that specializes in modelling sculptural forms at high temperatures.
Among the various faces Hugh recreated was that of his maestro Zanetti, whose features are typically Mediterranean. We do not know how happy the maestro was when he realised his portrait was crowned by a bouquet of pink flowers!
It’s doubtless that Zanetti provided the technical knowledge – of which the island of Murano boasts a millenary tradition – to help create these little masterpieces.
On the other hand, the practice of colouring glass using metal oxides and forming it exclusively by flame comes from a Roman tradition.
Hugh Findletar’s heads in blown glass are flower vases, but they recall Greek terracotta oenochoe from the areas that were once Magna Graecia and Etruria. These particular vases were often decorated with young African male heads.
Equally strong is the comparison with the well-known head-shaped flasks commonly used during the Roman Empire to contain wine for banquets, and for libations during funeral rites.
When Hugh’s vases are adorned with flowers, they make us think of Italian or Flemish Baroque still lives that feature delicate glass vases filled with exuberantly lush and marvellously messy floral arrangements – a reference to the fleeting and vain nature of life could be found in the fragility of the glass and in the inevitably ephemeral magnificence of the flowers.
But Hugh Findletar’s Flower Heads are not still lives, and we can bring them to life when and as often as we like.
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