59th International Art Exhibition. La Biennale di Venezia
Trees Grow from the Sky by House of Art Ceske Budejovice
Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione, Fondamenta Zattere ai Gesuati
April 23 – November 27, 2022
Created by Czech artist and sculptor Rony Plesl, the site-specific installation will unveil four large-scale glass sculptures in the Chiesa di Santa Maria della Visitazione in the Dorsoduro district with views of the Giudecca Canal. They are developed using unprecedented and unique glass casting technology, allowing the creation of grand glass sculptures without any limitations. Curated by Lucie Drdova, Prague- based art historian, gallerist, and author, the exhibition coincides with the 2022 International Year of Glass as proclaimed by the United Nations – and thus presents a timely artistic and technological exploration of the material.
Plesl has been exploring the possibilities of the materiality of glass and glass sculpture for more than four decades. His sources of inspiration are deeply rooted in his fascination with geometry, the intimacy of the Italian Renaissance, and the architectural opulence of the Baroque. At the beginning of his career, he spent several formative years in Venice on the island of Murano, studying the material and learning the craft from Italian master glassmakers. In collaboration with glass professionals, he started to shift the perspective of glassmaking and its possibilities within contemporary art and his own body of work.
As an expansion of the master craftsmen that follow the Czech Republic’s centuries-old traditional crystal production, hailing from the regions of Bohemia since the late 16th century, distinguished for the quality and beauty that have come to characterize its ateliers, and the techniques passed on by them, the Vitrum Vivum glassmaking technology further revolutionizes this craft. The unique process consists in casting glass as if it were bronze, giving the artist complete artistic freedom over the creative process that can begin with models made of paper, plaster, or objects found in nature, which in the end become artifacts themselves. Developed over the last 12 years by Jiri Sin, Czech glass master, and inventor, the Vitrum Vivum technology reveals a world of possibilities in the glassmaking field. Plesl’s Trees Grow from the Sky marks the world premiere of sculptures of this scale using this new groundbreaking full relief glass casting technology.
The installation concept was created by contemporary Czech architect Josef Pleskot and follows the proportions of the Renaissance architectural canon of symmetry and perspective. Four glass monoliths dominate the nave of the early Cinquecento church. Three pure crystal glass sculptures (600 kg and 205 x 75 cm each), characterized by the real imprint of an 80-year-old oak tree found in the woods of Northern Bohemia, are erected vertically in the center of the space and mirror the rhythm of the columns of the church altars. The perfection of their bark is accentuated by the haptic character of the material, while the luminous and translucent surface invites the viewer to look inside, it encourages the interpretation of an imaginary journey – exploring the true essence of things.
The crystal larger-than-life trunks also allude to the symbolics of the number three and to the Franciscan thesis of complementarity of nature and man. The fourth tree, located near the altar, symbolizes a spiritual and transcendent message of transformation delivered through an actual metamorphosis of the tree’s bark into a human figure. Made of uranium glass and covered with a bas-relief of the bodies of Jesus Christ, it illuminates the space with a mysterious, revelatory light. This radioactive uranium technique was discovered in Bohemia during the Baroque period and gives the glass an incredible subterranean phosphorescent glow in a bright yellow-green color.
Trees Grow from the Sky explores the nature of human existence and the definition of humanity through a site-specific path that emphasizes man’s introspective nature in a continuous metaphor with the glass as a living material. A spirit that reflects the theme of the 59th International Art Exhibition titled Il latte dei sogni / The Milk of Dreams, curated by Cecilia Alemani, which takes its name from Leonora Carrington’s book – a call to self-transcendence, inviting one to re-envision life through the prism of the imagination, an invitation to embark on an imaginary journey through metamorphoses of the body, the conceptions of ourselves, and the definitions of humanity.