Chain gang back in Whanganui for production of Sarjeant Gallery centenary chandelier
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Chain gang back in Whanganui for production of Sarjeant Gallery centenary chandelier

Chain gang back in Whanganui for production of Sarjeant Gallery centenary chandelier

By Liz Wylie, Reporter for the Whanganui Chronicle.

Jim Dennison (left), Phillip Stokes and Leanne Williams at work in the New Zealand Glassworks studio in Whanganui.

Whanganui’s Sarjeant Gallery turns 100 next month and a group of glass artists are busy creating a special birthday gift.

Friends of the Sarjeant Gallery fundraised for the project and commissioned Wairarapa glass artists, Leanne Williams and Jim Dennison, of the Crystal Chain Gang to come up with a design for a glass chandelier which will be housed in the renovated Queenspark building.

Williams and Dennison made a special visit to the historic gallery earlier this year and took rubber moulds of the unique plaster detailing to recreate in glass for the chandelier.

Friends executive member Libby Wood said the Friends Chandelier concept came about through a few conversations.

“We wanted a contemporary artwork that would fit with the Sarjeant’s classic features.

“We are delighted with the design.”

Williams and Dennison both trained in glass art in Whanganui and were responsible for bringing together contributions from 40 New Zealand and international glass artists for the chandelier completed for the CoLab Australasian Glass Conference held in Whanganui in February.

The pair are currently staying at Tylee Cottage and spending their days at NZ Glassworks in Rutland St crafting hundreds of glass droplets with help from Whanganui glass artist Phillip Stokes.

Whanganui glass artist Phillip Stokes working with Jim Dennison and Leanne Williams on the Friends Chandelier.

Dennison said the chandelier will include 450 droplets which are being cast in metal moulds constructed from the rubber castings.

“We are also making glass beads and the finished chandelier will be comprised of up to 700 pieces.”

The pieces will be suspended from a square stainless steel frame.

“The intention is to reference rather than replicate the interior architecture of the gallery.”

He said the project has taken the artists into unknown territory.

“The moulds have corners so the process involves blowing glass into shapes that it doesn’t want to be.

“We are asking glass that likes to be rounded to be square.”

Dennison praised Stokes for how well he has risen to the challenge and NZ Glassworks for donating the use of facilities and their labour.

Glassworks manager Scott Redding is also assisting with the project and Dennison said he is satisfied with how well the pieces are coming together.

Glass artist Jim Dennison (centre) said the project involves forcing glass into moulds that reference features of the historic Sarjeant Gallery.

The aim is to complete the project in time for the Sarjeant’s birthday on September 6 when there will be a ceremony on the steps of the Queenspark building.

The ceremony will include speeches, a birthday cake and a choir performance.

In case of rain, the ceremony will be held inside the adjacent Alexander Library.

The ceremony will be part of  Whanganui Heritage Month celebrations which include tours, concerts, a family fun day and speaking events in praise of the gallery and its founder Henry Sarjeant.

Members of the public can visit NZ Glassworks at 2 Rutland St, open from 10am to 4.30pm each day to observe the chandelier construction and Friends of the Sarjeant will be taking a bus trip to the Crystal Chain Gang studio in Martinborough to watch the chandelier being made on Saturday, August 11.


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