GLASS LIVES INTERVIEW:
Bruno Romanelli

Bruno Romanelli in conversation with North Lands Creative Director Karen Phillips.

PROJECT ACTIVITY - Visiting artist workshop

PARTNER - north lands creative 

YEAR - 2019

1. When did you first start working with glass, and how has your making process and work evolved over time?

I began in 1988 when at Staffordshire Polytechnic. I’d applied to study Surface Pattern, but soon became seduced by glass and opted to switch course.

When I first started casting glass, my work was figurative and remained so for 15 years, roughly half the time I’ve been working with glass. During this time my processes evolved from casting directly from clay models, to making complex part-moulds in silicone and life-casting from my own body. The processes of working through positive and negative in different materials, over time, began to influence the kind of work I was making, and much of this figurative work examined themes based on memory and identity, employing complex techniques to create visual explorations of positive/negative space. Since the mid 2000s my work has undergone somewhat of a sea change. I have

for the last 15 years been making abstract, decorative objects that explore the relationship between Light, Colour, Form and material.

Formally my work is geometric and in particular derives from the circle. This work has also developed over time both aesthetically and technically. As the work evolves and becomes more complex, so too does the process and techniques used to create them.

2. Was there a pivotal moment when you decided to be an artist?

If there was, it was in my 3rd year at school when I chose art as one of my ‘o’ levels. I was fortunate to have a fantastic art teacher and it was certainly an influence on my decision to focus on art as my future career.

Inlaying glass prior to casting, for ‘Lux’

3. Can you tell us about the process of making your work?

My current work begins life as a plaster model, turned on a whirler, which is a horizontal plaster lathe. I take silicone moulds of these plaster models from which I then make waxes. Each piece is made of several elements and each is made in this way before being cast and finished individually before being assembled into the whole. There is a lot of grinding, air-tooling, polishing and gluing involved in each piece. Because of the geometry of the work it is essential that each element is finished very precisely.

4. Can you discuss the significance of using lost wax glass casting technique in your work?

I’ve always loved this process from the first time I was shown the methods for doing it. I really love the ‘ancient-ness’ of the technique and it gives me a sense of connection deep into the past. Having said that, what I also like is the notion of using an ancient technique to make very modern, contemporary works.

5. Please tell us how you found your time teaching at North Lands during the Visiting Artists workshop ‘Into the Light’?

As always, it was a great pleasure to be at North Lands. I’ve had a long history and association with the place and have always enjoyed being there.

I had some great students, enthusiastic and keen to learn which is always an essential aspect of teaching. The students came from different parts of the world and this gave the class a special dynamic.

6. What was the concept behind the class?

I wanted students to follow my ‘route’ to making work rather than follow my techniques to make my work. In this way they would understand my methods for generating ideas but produce work that was unique to themselves rather than Romanelli looky-likies.

I wanted them to see the landscape and place that they found themselves and to think about the ‘essence’ of what they found interesting, to question why they found things interesting and to then translate that ‘essence’ into their work, whilst also avoiding direct representations.

Wax models, work in progress

Studio view and work in progress

7. What do you think you offer to teaching programmes?

I bring all my 30 years of glass-making experience which includes a mastery of glass casting techniques along with other processes I’ve needed to employ over the years. I see myself as a problem solver, I work out how to resolve the problem of taking an idea from concept to physical object and I encourage my students to think in this way to resolve this process for themselves. I hope I give students an insight into my way of looking, thinking and then making which they can harness for their own practice.

8. How do you benefit from your time teaching students?

When you have a good group of students, it is very rewarding to see how they respond to your teaching. I find it enriching and inspiring to see and guide students to a greater understanding and level than when they arrived on the class.

9. How have you been during the months of quarantine? How is the artist community in the UK dealing with this unsettling situation?

Mainly I have been ok, deciding very early on to use the unusual circumstances to concentrate on developing new work. It’s been very creative on the one hand, but also quite devastating on the other as 1 by 1, the regular Art Fairs of the year where I show and sell my work were canceled. Artists and galleries are deeply affected by coronavirus and they seem to be responding in creative way, looking for new ways for their audiences to see and experience their work. It’s an uncertain time, but I believe the arts have the resilience and creativity to get through it and come out stronger on the other side.

Bruno Romanelli, working on wax models in his London studio

10. It's great to see UK glass artists' work being exhibited abroad; can you tell us about your recent/upcoming exhibitions or projects?

I have an on-going exhibition in Shanghai at the moment. It is a a group show centred around Colin Reid and the artists that have been his assistants over the years. It was in Taipei for the first leg of the show before moving to Shanghai.

The other international events that were scheduled for this year, Salon of Art & Design NYC, Tefaf, Maastricht have been canceled regrettably, due to coronavirus.

11. How would you define contemporary glass in the UK?

In a single word – diverse. It has always been characterised by its breadth of application, technique and aesthetic and this has only amplified over the time that I have been involved in it.

12. What are your favourite European artists, studios and/ or places?

Silvia Levenson, Tobias Mohl, Anne Petters, Morten Klitgaard, Krista Israel. Berengo Studio, Alps, Lake Como

13. How important is it to you to be making work internationally and with other European organisations and artists?

This has never been a significant aspect of my work or my practice.

14. The contemporary glass world is built on mobility: artists and their projects are not subjected to national borders, they travel and work in different countries, and their works are exhibited globally. How do you think the international glass scene will change after this crisis?

Artists are already having to consider and implement alternative ways to overcome this problem. In terms of exhibiting internationally, I think this aspect could continue relatively unaffected as artists send their works to all corners of the globe without having to go there in person. It will undoubtedly impact physical travel though which will impact teaching programs, conferences etc. There have been a lot of online classes to try to fill the void created, and these have been largely successful but they don’t compare to actual classes.

The art fair industry is taking a massive hit though, and it’s difficult to see how this will be overcome without a vaccine.

‘Iro/Hikari I, 2020, Cast glass, gold leaf

‘Aegir’, 2019, Cast glass

Misam, 2019, Cast and laminated glass.

ARTIST BIO
Bruno Romanelli

With over 30 years of experience working with glass, Bruno is an established and successful artist, exhibiting both nationally and internationally throughout the year.

With work in many major collections worldwide, including The Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Bruno is recognised as a leading contemporary in his field.

more interviews...