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Museo del Vetro Fondamenta Marco Giustinian, 8, 30141 Venezia VE

28/02/2023 - 07/05/2023

The difficulty of working with glass is also what gives rise to my artworks: its fragility,” Berger observes. Indeed, his unique technique presents an alternative approach to glass portraiture, which the artist himself defines as “morphogenesis.” Berger’s is an artistic investigation that tests glass by pushing it to its limits, to the point of breaking: brushstrokes become blows of a hammer on a sheet of glass, forcing splits and breaks into facial features. “The material does not allow for corrections. If one hammer blow is not right, I have to discard the whole work,” says Berger, “of course, there is a nervousness when I start a new work. My expectations of myself and the fear of not meeting my requirements sometimes even stops me from starting. In these moments, I try to block out these thoughts and concentrate on the essentials: My passion for making art and the heart and soul I put into it.”

In the hands of Simon Berger, the hammer is no longer a simple tool, but becomes an amplifier of effects. The light and transparency of the glass surface are transformed into an intricate network of cracks and fractures that recreate the human face. For Shattering Beauty, in addition to a selection of glass portraits – alternating with mirrors – that challenge the modes of perception, several ‘animated’ canvases embedded in metal cubes will also be presented, inviting a more direct interaction with the installation.

The exhibition Simon Berger: Shattering Beauty, organised in collaboration with Berengo Studio at the Museo del Vetro, contains a series of new portraits by the artist in glass, presenting his pioneering technique to the Venetian lagoon for the very first time. In his hyper realistic portraits Berger recreates the lines of the human face by breaking the material. In a mesmerising process he refers to as “morphogenesis,” he re-situates the medium as an animated “canvas,” using sculptural tools such as a hammer to physically work at its surface to “etch” and “draw” haunting human faces. Reinforced safety glass, which holds at its core a crucial layer of plastic, ensures that the material, though broken, stays in place. This highly controlled sculptural technique originates from the artist’s classical training in carpentry, and is a moving example of how many artists are now translating techniques from other mediums into the world of glass. Berger’s unique technique of deliberate “shattering,” contradicts years of teaching, whereby broken glass has been seen as wasted or ruined. On the contrary, he instead turns the material’s so-called weakness into its most vital asset. Its ability to break becomes reframed as its ability to change, to be altered, and to be recast as something new. To watch the artist create these works is to witness a vivid “performance,” not dissimilar to that of the glass maestros in the furnace. In a way, Berger’s craft provides an enticing extension of tradition, continuing the animated life of glass, into what had previously been viewed as its death. The exquisite shattering of Berger’s work becomes representative of how powerful revitalising and reanimating our own relationship to the material can be. Each artwork becomes a reminder of the process of breaking down barriers, a physical urge encouraging audiences to view glass – and the world within which it exists – in a different way. The trauma and pain typically associated with broken glass are inverted. The shattering of the material is not an end point for Berger: it is just the beginning.

Photocredit Francesco Allegretto

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