Renowned Venetian glass artist Massimo Micheluzzi, who is represented in many of the world’s leading museums, will present an exhibition of new work, “Micheluzzi: Mosaico”, at the Willer gallery in London from 22 June until 30 July.
Micheluzzi’s exquisite work is much sought-after for its beauty, innovative use of colour, and his masterful and inventive interpretation of traditional Venetian glass making techniques. The past eighteen months has been an exceptionally creative period for the artist, during which he has been inspired by the architecture of his native Venice. The 25 exhibition pieces take inspiration from the spectacular mosaics and terrazzo floors which are a feature of the city’s palazzos and churches. Micheluzzi’s distinctive style creates a contemporary aesthetic while employing classic centuries-old murrina techniques.
He uniquely maintains an unusual amount of control over the making processes. The murrina panels are meticulously composed and fused in his studio. The results are subtle, sophisticated pieces of solid, beautifully proportioned forms, alive with the dense opaque jewel-like colour, pattern, fluidity, and effortless elegance of his native Venice.
Micheluzzi says of this new collection: “Glass is a complex and surprising material. There’s a form of alchemy involved in working with this material and countless secrets to be discovered. My work recalls the atmosphere of Venice, the lagoon, the silvery waterways and the cloudy skies. I use glass to convey a feeling of motion.”
And of the material itself: “Glass is hard, inflexible and incorruptible by nature, mysterious in its essence – an obstinate material to work. If you mishandle glass or work it without due care and attention, it reveals its hidden fragile nature and can cheat you by self-destructing. But if you truly love glass, and really try to understand its needs, it will reveal its infinite creative possibility a bit at a time, rendering an extraordinary depth of colour and lucid surfaces. My mission is to elicit more confidence from the material, hoping that slowly it will reveal its secrets to me.”
Did you always know you would become an artist?
I believe growing up in a city like Venice, with its unique artistic heritage in such a specific geographical position, definitely influences every young person here. I was fortunate. My grandfather and my mother were a theatre-actors and my father was an antique dealer, with whom I initiated to work with at a very early stage (in the very same space as the present gallery-studio, Venice). We dealt with antique furniture and original Venetian art glass. I have always had a big interest in art and in the manual knowledge of restoration work of different materials; a curiosity to discover and know. At a certain point, in the mid-1980s, my aim to learn more about a personal creative part of the glass making, initiated to take shape.
Were you always drawn to glass as your preferred medium?
Initially, I mainly worked with wood (furniture, boats etc..) and metal. For me, the local glass tradition was a natural part of my roots to explore and develop in to a more contemporary interpretation.
When at art school, what did you specialize in?
I specialized in Art History and Architecture at the University, Venice.
Growing up in Venice you must have been very aware of the traditions of Murano, when did you first visit the glass blowing ateliers?
I was in my teens at my first visit in a furnace was at the Venini glass factory, Murano. Venini is considered as one of the pioneers of the modern glass, with Carlo Scarpa who took an amazing step from the traditional ornate style into a timeless, essential design.
Was there a family connection with art, sculpture and the Muranese glass world?
There were no previous glass artist in my family, but art and literature were important issues at home. The lagoon city is small and people, owing mutual interest, tend to know one another, belong to the same sphere. Inevitably, sculpture is connected with all the other artistic expressions. The lagoon city has constantly had an immense attraction (geo-strategically, political, religious, naturalistic) to artists. Again, the close contact with the environment is an inspiring impact.
Glass is regarded as a very difficult material to work with. How long did it take you before you felt you had control of it and understood its properties?
I agree that it is a truly challenging material. Due to its limitlessness, there are a large amount of possibilities achieved within the same material. In spite of a thorough amount of personal experiences, I constantly learn new things about it. There are a multitude of passages from an idea until the final result.
Every artist is inspired in different ways; this new ‘Mosaico’ collection references the mosaics and terrazzos of Venice. Has the architecture and atmosphere of Venice always influenced your work?
Naturally, this milieu is a great source for an artist. A never-ending source. However, my mosaics capture a variety of influences. Venice has always been an international melting pot of cultures, traditions. During the XX Century several foreign artists collaborated in the Muranese furnaces. Historically, the marble-terrazzo-technique was used inside the Venetian palaces, due to its elasticity, its aesthetics. The huge (wall) marble slabs inside Saint Marks Basilica were in perfect harmony with the glass mosaics (portals, walls, cupolas). In modern times, I add contemporary feedback, such as books, exhibits, internet-research etc.
When you travel internationally do you find you are influenced by the places you visit, the people you meet and the art that you discover?
My influences are superior to my travelling adventures! The glass mosaic-technique is the most ancient and the most time-demanding technique of them all. I compose and fuse all the glass panels in my laboratory. Successively, in the Muranese furnace ‘a roll-up’ is achieved while the glass is in fusion. The post (carving) polishing is done once back in the laboratory.
What were the main challenges for you in creating this Mosaico collection – did you explore new techniques and push the medium into a new area?
My 2015/2016 mosaics are different from my ones I made prior. Perhaps a finished work presented looks obvious, but a number of details such as the choice of colors (transparent or opaque), monochromatic or non-, the type of glass pieces to assemble, the use of glass grains, the shape of the work, the mouth (bocca: opening), the polishing… I can preview, but further on also modify a piece along with the actual work-in-progress.
Each piece you make is unique; what would you describe as your ‘signature style’?
Yes, unique, never to be repeated again. My production is limited and maintains a handmade characteristic. If you observe a mosaic, you will notice that each side of it is different! I think my debut black-and-white mosaics, my red (mixture of varieties of red) mosaics and my various carved black/ polished works are the works people identify as the Micheluzzi style. As an artisan-artist I wish to equilibrate my style and still renew my repertoire.