The Sculpture Project is now born. This year introducing a new sculpture entitled “Aluna”, in a limited edition of 65 numbered and signed examples. The artist is Ann Wolff, who is best known for her sculptures in glass.
Aluminium was a new material to her and had an industrial image that made her hesitate for some time. She was more familiar with casting techniques, having worked with both glass and bronze in recent years. Kenneth Ståhl, a member of the management team at Byarums Bruk, felt that her series of glass sculptures known as “Sepia” could inspire to art executed in aluminium. Ann Wolff was finally convinced to give it a try. The casting process gives each object its own unique character. Each casting bares individual impressions from the mould and the way the material has cooled and solidified. The process of creation leaves traces of life – whether the object is cast in aluminium or glass.
The “Aluna” sculpture is thus related to Ann’s sculptures in glass. The theme she has explored is about external and internal identity – not individual but universal identity. She has long been fascinated by the gap between our internal feelings and the personality that outside world assigns to us; the way that the self naturally develops through our interactions with others. Art gives us the possibility to see deeper, to glimpse and interpret what lies beneath the surface. Through art we can project our own state of mind and psychological needs. Art helps us to establish a relationship with ourselves.
The making of “Aluna” in a limited series gives wider access to public institutions and the public in general. The sculpture can be installed indoors as well as outdoors all year round.
Ann Wolff is one of our most brilliant international artists and uses glass as her primary medium. Despite her success around the world she has remained surprisingly unknown in Sweden in recent decades. As a young glass artist with the former Kosta Boda AB – when her surname was Wärff – the situation was quite different. Her art glass gained a lot of publicity then and she was frequently in the spotlight.
From 1964 until the early 1970s she and her then husband, Göran Wärff, signed their work with the name Ann and Göran Wärff. They challenged traditional glass techniques, developed new ones and made the molten glass behave in ways it had never done before. In 1968 the couple were awarded the American Lunning Prize, the most prestigious award of the time for young and gifted Scandinavian designers. It was described as the “Nobel Prize” of the art world by H. Olof Gummerus, Director of the Finnish Society of Crafts and Design (now the Finnish Design Forum), who guided Finnish design to world prominence in the 1950s and 60s.
Ann continued working at the Kosta glassworks until 1978. One of the most popular pieces of art glass she produced there was the snowball – a small candle holder for tea candles – the first design of its type and so far the best. But her most interesting work of this period were the pieces she created using her own brush-etching technique. She patiently etched away numerous millimetre-thick layers of coloured overlay and underlay to create sharp and atmospheric images that were charged with ideas and contemporary associations.
Many of us were able to identify with her portrayals of relationship problems, her perceptions of female and male, and the way that everyday life entangles us in its web of demands. But her work also reflected our intimate connections with things – the teapot, the jug, the milk bottle, balls of wool, scissors, the chessboard, the cup – objects which her brushes revealed to be powerful universal symbols.
In 1978 she left Kosta glassworks to set up Transjö hytta glass studio together with a number of skilled glassworkers. There she refined her brush etching technique and won even more international prizes. She was named several times as the leading glass artist in Europe.
But Ann Wolff is not an artist who rests on her laurels or shies away from the existential problems or artistic issues that occupy her mind. The reflective, colour-enhancing nature of molten glass can be seductively beautiful, but also appear frivolous and lightweight. Darkness and mass are needed to convey deeper life experiences.
In the mid-1980s Ann worked on a series of portraits of women with the same intensity, anger and power as the medieval wooden madonnas in the churches of Gotland. She began to create large portraits in charcoal and pastels. They were melancholy, sorrowful and excluded, and were a necessary transition to her strong, sculptural statements of recent years. She has long ago left behind the blown glass with its clear central core. Her sculptures allow her to work with asymmetry and accentuate inner visual movement and fields of force. It takes courage to work in large formats, as she does now.
Aluminium, concrete and glass – each of these materials offers different possibilities. She has not lost her love of glass, with its ability to reveal what is inside and outside at the same time, to be reflective or matt, opaque or transparent, smooth or rough.
In 2011 Ann was awarded the European Culture Prize in Strasbourg, for her art, for having worked in several European countries, and for her contributions to the international success of European culture.
Text: Kerstin Wickman, Professor Emeritus in Design and Craft History.
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