Many Sided Shapes / by Sasha Ward

Exterior and interior of the first floor, Ariana Museum, Geneva.

Exterior and interior of the first floor, Ariana Museum, Geneva.

Ariana Museum, Geneva, was built by Gustave Revilliod in the late nineteenth century to house his art collection and named after his mother. Now it is a museum of ceramics and glass with an exhibition "Harmony in Glass" by the British artist Anna Dickinson with whom I studied at The Royal College of Art in the 1980s. The building's neo-classical/baroque curves, quite different on the inside and the outside, and the glimpses of some complicated high level stained glass through the first floor windows started me thinking about shapes even before seeing Anna's fantastic retrospective. 

Left: A quarter of Anna Dickinson's exhibition "Harmony in Glass" on until 1st November.   Right: Cast Yellow Vessel with a Hendecagon Steel Liner 2010   

Left: A quarter of Anna Dickinson's exhibition "Harmony in Glass" on until 1st November.   Right: Cast Yellow Vessel with a Hendecagon Steel Liner 2010   

I am keen on counting, and have had discussions with Anna before about how many sides we like our shapes to have. In Anna's work, there is often a shape that makes a tessellating pattern over the surface of the glass vessel which may have a circular metal liner. In the yellow piece shown above, the reverse is true as the eleven sided shape is on the inside. The odd numbered shapes are the ones that interested me, sometimes they are more difficult to photograph, looking odd in both senses of the word.

So here is the number count in this exhibition:  

3 sides - 1 : 7 sides - 1 : 8 sides : 2 : 9 sides - 1 : 10 sides - 3 : 11 sides - 2 : 15 sides -1.  All the others are either circular or have facets that are too numerous to count in the round, reminding me how much more complicated the geometry is for an artist who works with three dimensions.

Clear Frit Vessel (9 sides) 2014                  Green Triangles (10 sides) 2014                                Green Twist (3 sides) 2011

Clear Frit Vessel (9 sides) 2014                  Green Triangles (10 sides) 2014                                Green Twist (3 sides) 2011

The museum also has a great display of medieval stained glass, including the rose window, below left, number count as follows: outer window - 8 : main circle - 12 : centre - 4.

I wanted to contrast that versatile dodecagon with my own round glass commission for Dewsbury Health Centre, below right. As this is a hanging piece, there were no geometrical constraints based on glazing bars. The inner shape has 6 sides, the outer shape is flying out of the circle and has a piece taken out of it but it would have 7 sides.

Wall of medieval glass in Ariana Museum                             Hanging panel, Dewsbury Health Centre, 2006

Wall of medieval glass in Ariana Museum                             Hanging panel, Dewsbury Health Centre, 2006