An artist statement
Glass is a seductively beautiful medium. It has a more versatile nature than any other material. It can be made to resemble stone, water or metal, ceramic, gems or textiles. It can be solid or liquid, transparent or obscure, smooth or textured, heavy or apparently weightless. But it is in partnership with light that glass comes alive. It is then glowing and brilliant, reflective and refractive.
These qualities suggest the images to me, created by copper wheel engraving, a technique which has remained basically unchanged for two thousand years. Wheel engraved images have a gem like precision and delicacy, and a subtlety of modelling which is impossible with any other technique. It is superlative for detailing the play of muscle and the velvet sheen of skin. The human figure is the main subject of my work. Male or female, they are clothed or unclothed, and thus are not tied to any particular era for fashion. Glass has a timeless quality, technically still liquid, yet frozen motionless for the moment.
Alison at work in her studio
My inspiration is firmly rooted in Scotland, though the references may not be literal or specific. The starkness of the landscape, the relationship of air and water, and recurring images of standing stones and boats, all carry symbolism on a number of levels, both personal and universal. The intrinsic beauty of glass can indeed be a problem, since almost anything produced in it will be 'pretty'. Thus the images must have a strength which belies the small scale of copper wheel engraving. The small scale then allows an introspection and intimacy of the viewers experience, perhaps sometimes missing in monumental artworks.
The purity of the medium adds a spiritual dimension - its transparency and mirror surfaces give different insights on the human condition. In more than one way can one 'see through' the images engraved on its surface. Often I use the glass in its character of a window or a doorway, sometimes to suggest isolation or entrapment, sometimes with the figures poised between two worlds. Sometimes they confront an opposite or a mirror image. Glass is a surreal material - it is there and yet not there.
Light and colour have recently added a new element to the pieces. I have found that the use of sandblasting with copper wheel engraving , gives a freedom and immediacy to the treatment of the subjects, giving the engraving a painterly quality. Combining small elements into a larger whole, means that pieces can have an architectural scale, without sacrificing the sculptural quality or delicacy of details which is characteristic of wheel engraving.
I do not find the exacting technique limiting, nor apparent small scale of the work. The slow pace is a meditative and unending pursuit of perfection, the intimate scale gives a perspective on one's relationship with the rest of humanity.
After thirty years working in this field, I still find excitement and challenges in the potential of the medium, and the messages that it has to offer us today.