24 April 2015
By Hilarie Stelfox
It's hardly surprising that brother and sister Laura de Santillana and Alessandro Diaz de Santillana have a passion for glass in all its forms and colours.
That’s because the artistic siblings are descendants of the Venini glassware dynasty, established by Paolo Venini on the Venetian island of Murano in 1921.
Each honed their skills by working at Venini and have gone on to become glass artists of international renown.
An exhibition of their craft goes on show at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park on May 2, revealing the many ways that glass can be used as an artistic medium.
Peter Murray, YSP founding and executive director, explains: “Alessandro Diaz de Santillana and Laura de Santillana are siblings who have been creating impressive works of art for decades. Separately, they have fine-tuned shared experiences into different and distinctive visual languages.
“What they have in common is a shared passion for glass: the tradition, the craft and the endless possibilities of creating works of art from the magical and unpredictable qualities of this medium.”
Laura, who is the elder sibling, began experimenting with glass in her early 20s when she designed and created the Quattro Stagioni, a numbered edition of blown glass plates, which were acquired by the Corning Museum of Glass in New York. For a decade she worked with her brother at Venini, reorganising the museum and photographic archive as well as designing lamps and objects for the company.
Colour is fundamental to Laura’s work, from subtle misty opaque white and blue through to intense yellow uranium glass with the luminous quality of neon. She has developed a technique of taking a blown cylinder and folding it in on itself to create what she calls ‘glass books’. Her Blue Notebooks were inspired by Franz Kafka’s blue octavo notebooks used by the writer between 1917 and 1919 as diaries.
Alessandro is inspired by the glass-like qualities of water and many of his works have a strong painterly quality. The YSP exhibition includes a series of wall and floor works with a complex dark and mirrored patina, which gives the appearance of deep, reflecting pools.
He uses a technique applied for centuries in the production of hand-made windows – the glass is heated and cut then allowed to fall flat under its own weight to remove imperfections.
Unlike Laura, Alessandro works with glass that is only millimetres thick. He worked in New York before moving back to Tuscany, where he founded a new glassware company, Eos, with his sister and parents, and has exhibited widely around the world.
The YSP exhibition is open until September 6.