Latvian glass artist behind the largest handmade glass artwork in the Baltics

  • 2019-05-30
  • Lucas Balts

Some things are best measured in weight, span, height, while others, such as art - in their aesthetic or cultural significance. There is one phenomenal glass artist, whose work, we found, can be measured in all of these categories. Latvian glass sculptor’s and designer’s Ernest Vitin’s (Ernests Vītiņš) glass art is both monumental in size, and its visionary value.  

A young but extraordinary artist

Ernest Vitin is a young, extraordinary glass artist, highly regarded within the Art Academy of Latvia for his cultivated ingenuity in working with layered glass technique, and turning the flat material into mesmerising, monumental glass sculptures and unseen grave monuments and glass headstones. An acknowledged Latvian sculptor, associate professor at the Academy, Gļebs Panteļejevs, describes Ernest Vitin as “a lone wolf, who digs deep”. Indeed, Ernest is amongst the few in the world, who professionally develop the aesthetic and technical aspects of the layered, also called - stacked glass art, on an everyday basis. Having the guts to stand up to the difficulties emerging artists face, and giving his all, he spends every moment of his waking hours to the development of his art. This path is not a popular choice due to its demanding nature for ample space, high quantity of material to work with and tremendous precision and skill.  

Art runs in blood

Ernest Vitin comes from a family of artists; hence, art runs in his blood. He seems to have born for the purpose of working with this transparent material in its flat and cold form. “The process of developing layered glass artwork is not romantic, as opposed to glassblowing. It does not have that many intriguing, spontaneous rhythms and hidden metaphors. The cutting, glueing and stacking process often is dull and involves hard and precise work with hefty sheets of glass. It can sometimes take as long as a year before reaching the most exciting - the end result. The result, consequently, is a long-nurtured contemporary art piece, with a deep meaning injected into it when designing it,” says glass artist Ernest Vitin.

Monumentality of art and design

The physically measurable monumentality of Ernest Vitin’s art and design is evident by his architectural glass artworks - sculpture “In Nature” (2015) and layered glass wall “Motus” (2019). The entirely handmade, glass sculpture “In Nature” is one of the largest, by size, entirely handmade contemporary artworks, and the largest handmade glass artwork in the Baltics, located in the main foyer of the multi-award-winning, modern Academic Centre for Natural Sciences of the University of Latvia. The hand treatment of the sculpture spans over 20 km or 12.5 miles, the whole work weighing 22 tons. “In Nature” was technically very demanding to make, is aesthetically very pleasing, so heavy and yet, visually – so light! The physical realisation of the architectural glass artwork took more than nine months and involved work of fourteen people, including three physicists and engineers for carrying our mathematical calculations of tension and load, to ensure the safety of the structure. This was done using an advanced simulation of our 3D compositional model. Working by hand, with each of the 10 000 layers, was imperative in achieving the undulated rhythm of the glass and making sure that the installation, as huge as this, retains it’s authentic handcrafted look and does not yield an industrially produced effect.  

Many awards under the belt

The aesthetic or cultural significance of the visionary glass artist’s Ernest Vitin’s work is evident by the awards he has been nominated for. The most recent nomination is for the Latvian Television and Latvian Radio annual culture award “KG Culture 2019” (KG Kultūras) within the “Visual Arts” category for the latest Ernest’s solo exhibition this winter in Riga Art Space “Within the glass labyrinth.” . The first round of public voting for five nominees, out of many dozen candidates, in such categories as Music, Theatre, Film, Visual Arts, Literature, Heritage and The Surprise of the year, began on the 20th of May and the takes place until the 31st of May, 2019.

Twice, in 2014 and 2016, Ernest has been nominated for the prestigious Art Academy of Latvia award for a significant contribution enriching and strengthening culture locally and internationally. “The youthful maximalism and the consequent courage to face various risks, as well as the distinctive feel for the material and it’s potential- this is what urged me to offer a unique event in the Latvian sculpture landscape, in the gardens of Manor Rumene. A chance to tap into the unexplored,” says professor, Head of Doctoral Programme at the Art Academy of Latvia, president of the Latvian Academy of Sciences,  patron of Ernest Vitin’s first solo exhibition at the Manor Rumene (2012) Ojārs Spārītis. He continues on about the latest Ernest’s solo exhibition this winter in Riga Art Space, “...in the artworks exhibited at the Riga Art Space, I saw both the Ernest Vitin, who I know for almost a decade, and the one who surprises with innovative searches, the independence of artistic thought and the features of creative maturity.” 

Designers’ Union 2017 Design Award

Ernest’s design skills have been acknowledged by the nomination for the Designers’ Union 2017 Design Award for his glass bench composition.  Ernest designed both the form and the layout of the benches by combining the practical aspect of the object with the architectonics of the building. These benches are the only objects where he chose to use industrial instead of hand treatment to obtain the clean, constructive forms, visible in the building they were located at. Nonetheless, he conveyed the “naturalness” of the Nature House through the irregular and harmonious layout of the benches. 

As for another kind of originality, headstones and sculptural memorials is something Ernest makes for eight years now and has turned his initial idea into the first ever professional layered glass grave monument workshop in the world - “Glasstone”. Due to a special treatment that he has been testing, developing and perfecting for years now, his sculptures can permanently be exposed both indoors and outdoors. They are durable in all climatic conditions and render an absolutely marvelous play with the sunlight. The first layered glass gravestone he designed was in 2010 for his family commemoration, as an object of his Master’s dissertation. With years, the interest for glass headstones has organically increased within Latvia, and with the help of his dedicated team, the interest has grown outside the boundaries of Latvia to nearly all continents. Ernest has shipped and installed his Glasstone glass memorials to the USA, Russia, Japan, Germany, Czech Republic, Lithuania and Ukraine. The oldest and most historic cemetery “The Forest Cemetery” in Latvia is a proud displayer of seven beautiful glass memorial sculptures. Furthermore, the first chapel in Latvia containing stacked glass altar, tabernacle and other sacral glass design objects was initiated on the 9th of May, 2019 at the Barbele boys school “Roots and Wings”, with a specialization in aviation. 

A humble human, a great artist

“The limits of creativity do not exist where one’s thought is not bounded by fear. Ernest has no fear; he is the most determined and yet, the most humble human being I know. He knows the worth of exploring one’s own capabilities. For the four past years that I have worked with him, I have seen him tirelessly directing all his talents in one direction - the layered glass art he makes. We started with nearly nothing, but keeping focused on the creativity, quality of our work and service, we have managed to create a great team. And as for the team, the thing that unites us - is the belief in Ernest’s cosmic creative and constructive capabilities,” says Linda Namniece, Ernest Vitin’s manager, co-owner of “Glasstone” glass memorials.

View Ernest Vitin’s layered glass art projects at www.ernestvitin.com and glass headstones at www.glasstone.eu

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