African influence brings biggest work ever to the National Glass Centre

Magdalena Odundo alongside her impressive hanging glass installation at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland. The 1,000 hanging glass orbs have taken nearly a month to arrange.
Magdalena Odundo alongside her impressive hanging glass installation at the National Glass Centre in Sunderland. The 1,000 hanging glass orbs have taken nearly a month to arrange.
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THE ebb and flow of The Nile helped to inspire the largest piece of art work to be installed at National Glass Centre.

One thousand delicate glass droplets make up Transition II, by Magdalene Odundo OBE, which made its debut this weekend at the St Peter’s venue.

Magdalene is one of Britain’s most successful ceramics artists, but turned her hand to glass for this project.

The Kenyan-born artist drew inspiration from the pointed shape of ancient Egyptian ear studs, as well as the might of The Nile, to conceive the work which takes over the main gallery at the venue.

She worked in collaboration with the Glass Centre’s James Maskrey, one of Britain’s leading artists working in hot glass, to bring the creation to life, which will be on display until mid-January.

She said: “My folk are from the lake area, which is a source of the Nile, so that holds interest for me and is an important aspect of life in Africa.

“Although we have the Nile, we have droughts too.”

The water-like quality of glass sparked Magdalene into working in the medium.

“It is simultaneously transparent and solid, fragile and strong, like water, it is neither here nor there.

The artist says she’s proud to have worked alongside the National Glass Centre, where pieces which make up the installation were individually hand-blown.

“I’m kind of overwhelmed by the achievement of the whole team,” she said. “I’m really grateful to have been given this opportunity. I think it’s important for a city to create a contemporary facility on an historical site of glass-making

“It’s a facility that enables people to visualise the development of glass, from the stained glass windows of Bede, through to a contemporary way of seeing it.

“It’s important that the rest of the country celebrate it and use it too.”

In addition to Transition II, the Glass Centre is showing a reinterpretation of Metamorphosis and Transformation, an earlier work in glass by Magdalene made in Tacoma, Washington State, USA, as well as some of her ceramics.