"Glass allows us to built up a harmony between shapes and penetrating light, and to thus define the essence of light - space and to touch the secret of this space. Nevertheless, although glass is a prime medium for us, the character and the qualities of this material are something more than only a means of artistic expression. Therefore, we cannot do anything but be all the time nearby glass."
Stanislav Libenský a Jaroslava Brychtová, 1995
I was still a young student when my friend Werner took me with him to see the glass-works in Dolni Polubny. He worked there as a glass-blower and it was my first acquaintance with molten glass. It looked to me like a marvel: to work with something which flows like a fudge in the mixing machine of some candy store, radiates heat and glows, requiring the supreme skill of an artisan-artist. Later, I also saw the casting in forms, drawing glass rods in Josefodol (for making glass buttons) and glass-cutting in Albrechtice, Jizerske Mountains. But the real capitals of glass-makers are Zelezny Brod and Novy Bor, the places which are intimately known to artists Prof. Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova.
I have a confession to make: I fancy glass, I admire glass, I love glass. And I also have a great respect for those who can create the objects of art from glass - it does require very special talents. Glass is the material unlike any other - it has its own life. Get it wrong and you never make it into an object of beauty. Glass is neither solid nor liquid, its molecules are in non-crystal disorder, but have enough cohesion to produce mechanical rigidity. One really has to understand this "frozen liquid" to be able to enhance its qualities. Add to it the transparency, reflectiveness, the smoothness or coarsness of the surface, its crystal look-alikeness and you get other ingrediences of the real glass magic.
Get it wrong and you can only spoil it. Glass is also plastic when it is molten, so we can cast it, press it, draw it, blow it, and roll it. You can embellish it when it is cold: cut it, carve it, engrave or etch it, sandblast it, paint it, polish or guild it and I am sure there are still other methods both artists have up in their sleeves - some of them invented by their own ingenuity. All it takes is to get it right, right?
Well, it sounds simple, until you try it. After you handle the difficult techniques, you still have to force your design onto this elusive material. The result is what is sometimes inaccurately called a decorative art . Inaccurately, because it is also used for beautification, enriching, illuminating, prettyfication, synthetization, complementation and accentuation of the otherwise lifeless environment. What's more: those objects are the art of its own. Each has its story to tell: the beauty we can see, the surface we can touch, shape we can feel, the idea we can grasp.
The masterpieces of both artists who have been already working together for quite a long time, are demonstrating not only the amazing use of advanced, innovative techniques, but also their sense of composition, insight for shapes, space, colour and transparency - something we laymen would probably call "an excellent taste" for the lack of theright word. Prof. Libensky a Jaroslava Brychtova thus bring up an old tradition of Czech (Bohemian) glass, raise it up to a new level and spread it all around the world in their exhibitions.
But the glass is also a very fragile thing: like a dream or distant melody. So are the designs of our artists - charming and gentle. No wonder we are attracted to them: every one of us would like to own such little wonder, the object of captivating beauty and fragility, something which looks like it is made - well, made of glass.
Surprisingly, glass is actually produced (more or less) from sand, the most common material on earth. And come to think of it, it contains silicon and we make computer chips from it, too. It looks like the mankind came a long way: from playing with sand-castles to producing objects of usefulness and of a real beauty.
© Jan B. Hurych
© 1999 Stanislav Libensky and Jaroslava Brychtova, ArtForum / ICZ a.s.