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Exhibitions

Anna Dickinson: Everything Considered

Object, vessel or sculpture? These glass works sit in a category of their own, radiating quiet power.

von Bartha, Basel

7th September – 2nd November 2019

By Emma Crichton-Miller / 18th October 2019
Anna Dickinson, ‘Blue speckled lidded vessel’, 2019 COURTESY: von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Ben Koechlin

Anna Dickinson, ‘Blue speckled lidded vessel’, 2019
COURTESY: von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Ben Koechlin

EVERYTHING IS INDEED considered. Anna Dickinson is an English artist of remarkable depth and thoughtfulness. She works in a material, glass, usually associated with speed and flamboyance, resulting in a hard, showy brilliance. By contrast, Dickinson’s work, which combines glass (less often blown, more frequently cast and then carved with exactitude) with metals or other materials, is painstaking and modest. These are measured works. But far from carefulness stifling emotion, the achievement of an absolute rightness – combined with the austere, even masculine colours and opacities she favours – releases intense emotion. These works, so apparently quiet, so composed, are undeniably stirring. They are monumental; not in scale but in achievement and in the impact they have upon the viewer.

Anna Dickinson, ‘Emerald green vessel with steel and aluminium’, 2019 COURTESY: Anna Dickinson and von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Robert Hall

Anna Dickinson, ‘Emerald green vessel with steel and aluminium’, 2019
COURTESY: Anna Dickinson and von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Robert Hall

This is Dickinson’s seventh solo show with von Bartha Gallery. It makes sense that she shows in a gallery committed to the thread of constructivist and concrete non-figurative art, which emerged so powerfully at different times and in different contexts throughout the twentieth century. Although Dickinson trained as a glass artist, and although her works are often titled ‘vessels’, these are works which address fundamental questions of form and material much as the works of Donald Judd or Dan Flavin do (minimalists whom Dickinson’s acknowledges as inspirations), or German artist Imi Knoebel and American artist Landon Metz, who also show with von Bartha.

Anna Dickinson, ‘Clear glass with double walled steel liner’, 2019.
COURTESY: Anna Dickinson and von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Robert Hall

The vessels are not asking to be filled with flowers because they are already complete, the fully-realised expression of Dickinson’s responses to her environment in London, to her extensive travels and to her own experiences. The space within is as much part of the work as the materials without. The von Barthas and their collectors recognise the emotionally-charged rigour of Dickinson’s work, but for this exhibition they have invited the renowned brand director, curator and collector Catherine Walsh, to frame their qualities.

Installation view Anna Dickinson, ‘Everything Considered’ COURTESY: von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: BenKoechlin

Installation view Anna Dickinson, ‘Everything Considered’
COURTESY: von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Ben Koechlin

Walsh’s interventions have been significant. The show looks wonderful, with these eleven mysterious objects raised on a series of circular plinths organised in a circle like a mini Stonehenge, and then lit from above with a special lighting rig organised for the occasion. A back wall has been painted in a warm colour more evocative of a domestic space than a gallery. Here the objects glow like jewels. The lighting draws out the fathomless depths of colour Anna achieves through her unique process.

Anna Dickinson, 2019 COURTESY: von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Ben Koechlin

Anna Dickinson, 2019
COURTESY: von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Ben Koechlin

The artist works intuitively, each piece a separate creation. No pattern or combination is repeated: it is as if each object is a wholly satisfying answer to a singular question. And she is not afraid to collaborate with other craftspeople (a specialist glassblower, a silversmith), or to use found elements – a section of gas pipe, or unusual materials, such as acrylic and acetal – in order to achieve what she is after. She draws on inspirations as far apart as Art Deco, Victorian jet jewellery, science fiction and the majestic Victorian gas holders which mark the landscape of South London. So we pass here from ‘Black cast vessel with oxidised copper lining’ (2017), a piece inspired by cutting tools and tyres, to the elegant, feminine ‘Pink lidded vessel’ (2019) and from the decorous and sophisticated ‘Amber glass with hot rolled steel’ 2019 to the subtle and confounding ‘Brown glass with steel and pvdf’ 2019. This last resists definition, as a kind of object. It is purely itself. Small but precise interventions – a gap between two inner rings of metal, and an outer wall of glass; an outer circlet of cast glass which overshoots its liner – is enough to transform an object from a vessel into a sculpture.

Anna Dickinson, ‘Brown glass with steel and pvdf’, 2019
COURTESY: Anna Dickinson and von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Robert Hall

“These works, so apparently quiet, so composed, are undeniably stirring”

Anna Dickinson, ‘Pink lidded vessel’, 2019
COURTESY: Anna Dickinson and von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Robert Hall

“They are monumental in the impact they have upon the viewer”

You could spend all day savouring the peculiar brilliance of each piece. This is an exhibition of masterworks, given the space and setting to allow them to communicate their quiet power.

Installation view Anna Dickinson, ‘Everything Considered’ COURTESY: Anna Dickinson and von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Ben Koechlin

Installation view Anna Dickinson, ‘Everything Considered’
COURTESY: Anna Dickinson and von Bartha, Basel / PHOTOGRAPH: Ben Koechlin

Prices range from CHF 26,000 – 47,000

von Bartha – exhibits modern and contemporary artists across historically significant movements.

 

Article By

Emma Crichton-Miller
Emma Crichton-Miller is Editor-in-Chief of The Design Edit.