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National Glass Centre on the crest of a wave

A new installation by Magdalene Odundo has had National Glass Centre visitors in raptures

The Magdalene Odundo installation at National Glass Centre, Sunderland
The Magdalene Odundo installation at National Glass Centre, Sunderland

In the big exhibition gallery at the National Glass Centre (NGC) is an installation reminscent of the swell that follows a river cruiser or the dying moment of a surfer’s big wave.

A stone’s throw away – in a place where you definitely wouldn’t throw stones – passes the River Wear.

But this piece of art, with its 1,000 twinkling glass components, was inspired by a much bigger river, the Nile, and also by an Ancient Egyptian earstud seen in a London museum and by the dizzying Op Art creations of Bridget Riley.

This fabulous piece of work, called Transition II, was designed by Magdalene Odundo who was born in Kenya, moved to England in 1971 as a student and has made a name for herself as a studio potter.

Magdalene Odundo and James Maskrey working on a unit for Transition II in the National Glass Centre's Hot Glass Studio
Magdalene Odundo and James Maskrey working on a unit for Transition II in the National Glass Centre's Hot Glass Studio
 

“I knew she had started to experiment in glass so invited her to do a residency here,” says NGC director James Bustard.

“She has spent quite a lot of time with us over the last 18 months and it has been a fabulous project.

“This piece was made here and it was a watershed for her and us. It’s the perfect example of the NGC as producing and exhibition house. What marks us out from other galleries is what you see here because it has been completely made here.”

James Maskrey, NGC technician and accomplished artist in his own right, first met Odundo in 2010 at North Lands Creative Glass, a glass-making centre of excellence in Caithness. He became her ‘gaffer’, glass-making term for the technician who can turn ideas into reality.

They worked together subsequently and it was he who supervised the creation of the earstud-shaped glass vessels that make up Transitions II.

Magdalene Odundo with some of the units from her installation at National Glass Centre, Sunderland
Magdalene Odundo with some of the units from her installation at National Glass Centre, Sunderland
 

“Each one took about an hour to make and I made about 20-odd but we worked in collaboration with other studios in Wiltshire and Venice,” says James Maskrey.

James Bustard, delighted at how well the work has been received, says the NGC has been invited to display it at the Saatchi Gallery. and adds: “We would like to organise an international tour.”

Transition II is displayed with earlier glass installations by the artist and also by some of her distinctive ceramic works.

Also on show is a display of witty and ingenious glass works by James Maskrey and a special exhibition about North Lands Creative Glass where some of the world’s top glass artists go to experiment creatively.

Details of all NGC events on www.nationalglasscentre.com

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