The artistic association with glass has a long tradition. Evidence of glass art has been handed down to us from the Pharaonic Empire. Since then, the fascination that it holds for both artists and observers has remained uninterrupted. Above all, this substance, defined as an amorphous solid, displays its special attractions in an interplay of light and colour: it lets light through unimpeded, and can colour or reflect it.
Through the development of ‘dichroic glass’ (from the Greek dikhroos = having two colours) as a NASA commission in the 1960s, glass literally appears in a new light. Depending on the angle of incidence of the ray and the angle of view of the observer, it can be simultaneously colourless or intensely coloured, transparent or reflective. These properties are produced by an extremely thin, optically transparent coating, which reflects particular wavelengths of light radiation, whilst others are transmitted unhindered: a ‘wonder glass’ that, like a cut diamond, simply obtains its changing colours from light.
A particularly attractive form of ‘high-tech art’ was produced when this innovative material came into the hands of artists, designers and architects. The special glass, produced since 2004 by the company Prinz Optics under the trade name VarioTrans®, quickly found its way into architecture and interior design. Fine artists, too, were increasingly inspired by the aesthetic effect of dichroic glass.
The Danish-Icelandic installation and media artist Olafur Eliasson, one of the most influential representatives of contemporary art, has created particularly impressive works of dichroic glass art. Like many of his installations, they also principally deal with physical phenomena in nature, such as movement and reflections.
The sculptor Heinz Mack uses the polychromatic effects of VarioTrans glass in his glass sculptures in order to share his perception of the colour changes and refractions of the reflected urban environment through an interplay of light.
For his 2007 glass construction ‘The Tower’, the artist Bernhard Huber used dichroic glass pieces to produce a multi-coloured play of light in the interior.
The impressive mobile by Petra Goldmann in the Mainz state parliament is composed of dichroic glass pieces. For this, she selected a title representing the central theme, ‘Die Farbe ist eine Frage des Standpunktes’ (‘Colour is a Matter of the Viewpoint’).
The works of these four artists are just an example of what is now an extensive spectrum of dichroic glass art. An illustrated book entitled ‘Colour Light Play’, to be published in the autumn of this year, will provide a comprehensive overview of a fascinating range of artistic work that uses VarioTrans glass. It will be published by the manufacturer of this special glass, the company Prinz Optics, based in Stromberg in Germany.