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Simon Berger


SHATTERING BEAUTY Simon Berger first discovered he liked breaking glass when he found himself face-to-face with the carcass of an old abandoned car. Something drew the Swiss artist instantly to the pane of glass that made up the vehicle’s windshield. This clear sheet of material called to him like a blank canvas, he knew instantly what it was he wanted to do. Can something broken ever be beautiful? The exhibition Simon Berger: Shattering Beauty, organised in collaboration with Berengo Studio at the Museo del Vetro, seeks to answer this question. The solo show 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, contrary to the traditions of preserving glass, Berger recreates the lines of the human face by breaking the material: the fragility of glass becomes its greatest strength. In a mesmerising process Berger refers to as “morphogenesis” he re-situates the medium as an animated “canvas,” using sculptural tools such as a hammer to physically work at the surface of reinforced safety glass to “etch” and “draw” haunting human faces. 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. In dialogue with the Murano glass tradition, Simon Berger's works present a new approach, and one that presents a stark contrast to the techniques currently being used in Italy. With a focus on portraiture, his glass “canvases” provide a new starting point for investigating the capacities of the ancient material as a modern element for art. His unique technique of deliberate “shattering,” contradicts years of teaching, whereby broken glass has been seen as wasted or ruined. On the contrary Berger 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. The artist uses reinforced safety glass, which holds at its core a crucial layer of plastic to ensure the glass, though broken, stays in place. At least one of the works on display was also created in front of a live audience in Murano, providing a true insight into Berger’s artistic practice. The subtle dialogue the artist wishes to create between his own practice as “performance”, and that of the Muranese glass-blowing tradition is established in a concrete process. In a way, Berger’s craft provides an enticing extension of the performance of the glass masters in the furnace, 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; on the contrary, it is just the beginning.