9 October 2019

How Kew captivates Chihuly

Artist Dale Chihuly reveals what captivates him about Kew's landscape and architecture.

By Katie Avis-Riordan

Chihuly 'Niijima Floats' in the Japanese Landscape at Kew Gardens

Art meets nature

Nature has long been an inspiration for artists.

But for Dale Chihuly nature is also a dynamic setting in which to display his art.

‘Living in the Pacific Northwest, I am surrounded by monumental mountains, massive bodies of water, and forests that are almost overwhelming in scale and beauty,’ the Seattle-based artist says.

‘This environment, and my mother Viola’s passion for gardening, have inspired my work, and I love to place my work in natural settings.

‘I love the juxtaposition between my installations and the natural elements, and how the work can be both complementary and striking in natural environments.’ 

This intriguing juxtaposition is on full show here at Kew.

Chihuly’s unique artworks on display have transformed our beautiful natural landscape into an outdoor gallery space, the art sitting amidst the biodiversity of our plant life.

Glass and glass

It’s not only the natural landscape at Kew that marries so well with Chihuly’s art but also our architecture.

Reflecting the artistic medium, our glasshouses make striking backgrounds for the iconic artist’s glass artwork.

‘There’s so much to appreciate about the glasshouses at Kew, starting with the variety of the structures themselves,’ Chihuly says.

‘Between the Temperate House, Palm House, and Waterlily House alone, there are so many differences in the architecture.

‘The Temperate House, in which I have many installations currently, is one of the largest in the world and Kew has done a wonderful job restoring it. I’ve always loved the rounded, upside-down boat form of the Palm House.’

Chihuly 'Temperate House Persians' at Kew Gardens
Dale Chihuly, ‘Temperate House Persians’ at Kew Gardens. Photography: Scott Mitchell Leen. Artwork © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved

Temperate setting

One of the most spectacular artworks, specially designed for the Kew exhibition, is on display in the Temperate House.

Suspended from the ceiling of the world’s largest surviving Victorian glasshouse, Temperate House Persians is a 9m-long sculpture of blue, green and yellow, which demonstrates Chihuly’s boundary-pushing approach to glass.

‘The monumental scale of the Temperate House was a delight to work with as it offers several environments in which to place my work.

‘Whether suspended, like the Temperate House Persians, or nestled in with the lush plantings on the ground like my installation of Hebron Vessels, placing my work in the Temperate House was a pleasure as it offers such amazing light and space in which to create.’ 

Hero image: Dale Chihuly, 'Niijima Floats' at Kew Gardens. Photography: RBG Kew/Jeff Eden

Artwork © Chihuly Studio. All Rights Reserved

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