Defining the Undefinable

When we sat down to write this column, we thought it would be a simple job. After all, this week’s choices are internationally renowned artists, geniuses really, whose work has inspired and redefined their chosen fields of interest. People from all walks of life have seen their art, feeling a sense of wonder at the beauty and complexity presented to them.

But the problem is that these artists use line, form, perspective, physics, chemistry, and imagination backed up by experience – it’s just too much to expect mere words to describe what and how they do their work.

Take M. C. Escher, for instance, an artist whose name is so well known it acts as a noun, adjective, style, and a signifier, all at the same time. His work is certainly eye-catching, with patterns and forms shifting between different viewpoints, plausible and impossible in equal measures. How does a viewer reconcile an image that must be shown on a two-dimensional surface but presents as a three (or possibly more) dimensional environment? A dilemma, to be sure, but one that has entranced audiences for decades.

Then there’s Lino Tagliapietra, a glass artist whose creations reflect that single moment in the furnace where skill, imagination, and experience combine into a glorious result. Depending on the combination in percentages of sand, soda ash, and limestone, with colors provided by metal salts, painting or enameling, a glass craftsperson can produce a wide variety of works. Add an extensive range of techniques such as cane work (thin threads of glass laid over hot glass), cold work (cutting patterns into cold glass), engraving, incalmo (glass bubbles joined together to make bands of color during the blowing/creating process), and incising, to name a few, and there truly is no limit to what a master artisan like Tagliapietra can achieve. It’s no wonder that traditional and modern practitioners of glassblowing, as well as discerning collectors, follow his career with such interest.

In the end, all we can do is just recommend seeing these works, study and be inspired by them – and find your own words to describe these masterpieces of art and science.