The state of the art in listening to fragility

  • 2016-04-20
  • Zita Darguzyte

SURREY, UK - Saint Columba’s House in Surrey will host Dr. Ursula Glienecke’s mixed media sculptures and paintings to reflect on human and environmental fragility. Her innovative, fragile-looking resin sculptures will encourage reflection and serve to inspire spiritual strength. The exhibition will open on April 24 and will run until May 28.

Synthetic resins are the state of the art in technology and have uses from wielding car parts to producing dental fillings. They are durable, waterproof, and can be transparent. Artists have also started using them to coat their artworks, pour into moulds, or blend in paint. But if you ask Glienecke about them, she will tell you which mixture of synthetic resins will make your measuring cup and scales disappear, and which resin will shrink when drying. In the search for the best expression of her ideas, she experimented with dozens of them. As a result, she developed a special technique for her sculptures. As Glienecke explains, creating a resin sculpture involves a lot of careful planning: finding the right silicone for a mould, and the right kind(s) of resin for the sculpture which she then creates, literally, drop by drop. The whole process could take half a year, or even a year and a half. The result is often a slender, elegant, and fragile looking tracery of transparent strands.

Glienecke, born Latvian and bred cosmopolitan, was an academic in theology until she chose a different way of speaking. Now she presents her ideas in three dimensions and with countless angles and perspectives. Her sculptures are irresistibly conversational, touchingly personal, and cleverly composed. One of Glienecke’s recent exhibitions was also entitled “Listening to vulnerability.” Set in the famous German spa town, Bad Wildungen, it had a lot to tell about fragility and healing.

Glienecke invites us to reflect on fragility not only through the aesthetic appeal of her transparent and fragile-looking resin sculptures, but also through her choice of themes, such as deeply traumatic experiences, environmental destruction, or the loss of cultural diversity. However, she does not dwell on vulnerability; she also suggests a hope for healing and reconciliation. Her sculptures encourage us to look for a ray of light and the “true strength of the brilliant light within ourselves” even in the darkest hour. That is why some of her of sculptures glow in dark. Or they are deliberately ambiguous, confusing our associations of death and birth, as in the sculpture of a dog’s ripped-out guts which could also resemble its umbilical cord. Such artwork suggest that it is possible to imagine new beginnings despite hurtful experiences in the past.

“Listening to vulnerability” reminds us of the value of dialogue that comes from willingness to listen, and openness to be affected and altered by what we hear. Genuine dialogue requires courage to emerge vulnerable and to embrace insecurity.
Glienecke has certainly found a unique technique for creating stunning artworks which explore the depth of mutuality. However, as her artwork are deeply conceptual and conversational, this could be only one way of looking at them. There are surely more dimensions to this dialogue: it is an invitation to think together.