Objet d’Art: Color and Light

Published March 8, 2016

ABOVE: GABRIEL HARTLEY, SHIFTLESS, 2015. COPYRIGHT: THE ARTIST. IMAGE COURTESY STUDIO LEIGH.

Every month, Interview picks an artist- or designer-created object that straddles the line between aesthetics and function. Subdued tastes need not apply.

When merging art and object, one side must bend to the other, maybe conceding appearance or pragmatism. Rarely do these compromises meet so harmoniously in the middle as artist Gabriel Hartley’s new series of colorful, glass lighting fixtures in his solo show “Light,” which opens today at Studio Leigh in London.

Hartley trained as a painter, and has found success in the last several years with his large-scale abstractions, mostly rendered in oil. He had never worked with glass until recently, when he started mixing colored glass into his compositions in attempts to emulate a light source. “A lot of my work is interested in layering and concealment as well as optical effects, so glass felt like an ideal material to emphasize these concerns,” he explains. “I naturally fluctuate between the sculptural and the pictorial, so it was very much in keeping with how I approach things, [that is], using glass in a more sculptural way.”

When Studio Leigh, a gallery that commissions fine artists to create objects with “use-value,” approached him to do a show, Hartley took a break from the canvas to create standalone lights. And break he did. “There were quite a few very frustrating moments when the piece was almost complete and then shattered at the last moment,” he says. “It was exciting to see how far it could be pushed before shattering. That’s in tune with my personality, pushing things to see how far things can go before they break.” He managed to coax a total of nine sensuous, twisting shapes from the molten glass, painting directly on it throughout the process. With many of the light bulbs nearly or totally obscured, the end results feel equally organic and ethereal.

The artist also considered the hypothetical implications of the lights in the domestic settings of their future owners. “[In] a space where personal relationships reach an apex of importance,” he reflects, “the objects are completed by each other, but they also possess different states of comfort, awkwardness and tension.”

“GABRIAL HARTLEY: LIGHT” WILL BE ON VIEW AT STUDIO LEIGH IN LONDON FROM MARCH 11 TO APRIL 23, 2016. 

Objet d’Art runs every month. For more, click here.