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A curated generative art collection inspired by my fused glass practice and exhibited as part of Feral File’s ‘Truth’ exhibition

Abstract art of large transparent pebbles distorting a dark blue background, covered in meandering lines and dots.
Abstract art of a connected network of dots in lavender, coral, and aubergine. The piece is covered in glass pebbles which magnify the background.

Project origins

When Adam reached out to me about participating in this exhibition the themes of scale and intention resonated immediately, and inspired me to create a new piece of work that I’d been mulling over for a long time.

Fused glass

As a jeweller I’d always been intrigued by precious gems, how something so elemental could capture attention by manipulating light in extraordinary ways. In 2014 I took a fused glass course to learn how to craft my own gemstones that I could bring into my jewellery work, and it’s been a joyful hobby of mine ever since.

Working with glass this way is my favourite material. I assemble little towers of glass shards and frit* and carefully place them in the kiln, where they’re melted down into unexpected blobs. Typically a single gem will have 3-5 trips to the kiln: breaking and reforming, adding layers and chipping bits out until I’m happy with each piece. The practice is very similar to making generative art, there’s an obscure step in the process that you have to trust, and you go back and forth with the kiln/computer until you’ve made something you’re happy with.

Selection of pink, red, and black fused glass pieces, arranged on a white background in a diamond formation

I worked on a small project in 2017 themed around scale where I combined my fused glass and generative art practices, and the brief from ‘Truth’ felt like an opportunity to explore this intersection more deeply.

While I would have loved to recreate some of the iridescent effects in my glass with code, it felt hubristic to imagine I’d be able to do them justice. Making fused glass is such a serendipitous and personal process, quantifying and generalising it for the screen wouldn’t work for me, so I considered other aspects of my glasswork that I could use to inform a generative art piece.

I want to highlight glass as a material in itself. Firstly, I love how flexible it is to work with. Although you have to relinquish a lot of control in the kiln, it is very tolerant of mistakes and can always be reworked into its original state. Initially I found it so frustrating that I couldn’t restrict it to an exact shape with my method of kiln-forming, but I learned to appreciate this quality that leads to unexpected organic shapes.

I also love spending time with the pieces together; arranging them in interlocking patterns by colour, size, feature, examining their defects and unique qualities.

Selection of blue fused glass pieces, arranged on a white background
Selection of clear, pink and iridescent fused glass pieces, arranged on a white background

This became the foundation of Vitreous, a series of singular organic forms that naturally fit together.

Lens of distortion

The other aspect of glass I wanted to feature was its optical qualities, how glass can play with light and enhance whatever’s behind it. Instead of seeing the forms as independent elements, by imagining them as lenses which intersect with their backgrounds we can engage with multiple layers of perception.

I’d always seen my glass pieces as tiny worlds unto themselves, but they can equally be interpreted as cells on a microscopic scale. Following along from the themes of perception and scale throughout ‘Truth’, I wanted to grapple with this ambiguity of scale by creating backgrounds that feel both micro and macro.

My challenge was to find the simplest design that would emphasise the magnifying qualities of the glass pieces, and balance the visual weight of the background and foreground.

I created a generative colour scale that modulates over the composition using octaval noise, and filled the canvas with a fine network of lines and dots whose colour is offset on the scale.

There are three motifs present in the background - clusters of dots, grid structures, and trails that follow the contours of the colour bands. In each composition these visual elements create small communities and form connections that express a sense of scale; to me they evoke both aerial photography at night, and synapses in the brain. In isolation they make for a fairly subtle background but are brought into focus through the distorted glass pieces.

Release details

Vitreous will be on display alongside 6 other fantastic generative art projects from October 12th on Feral File. Sets will be available to purchase on October 19th.

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Thanks to Adam Berninger for his excellent curation of ‘Truth’, everybody at Feral File for bringing this exhibition to life, and Brian McNestry for his eternal support.