Each artist’s residency begins in the same way, with the discovery of the site itself, whose imposing red roofs rise above a thickly forested valley that has been home to a glassmaking industry since 1586. This is followed by a phase of deep immersion, during which the artists discover the skills of the workshop’s craftspeople, an expertise that has been handed down from generation to generation. Finally, a production phase sees each artist-in-residence partner with the master glassmakers of the Cristallerie Saint-Louis to create an original work of art – a chance for both artists and craftspeople to reorient and view their own process of making in a new way. Reinventing ancestral gestures and pushing the limits of artisan skills, they undertake joint experiments with crystal that give rise to new pieces in which this material is transfigured to become a terrain of artistic research in its own right.
Presented under the title “Sables brûlants” in a reference to both the raw material and the fiery process that gives crystal its form, the works brought together here attest to the fascinating and inventive character of the Artists’ Residencies programme. As integral elements of the artists’ oeuvres, these pieces reflect the creative impulses and fixations of their creators: the mysteries of time for Atsunobu Kohira, the many states of light for DH McNabb, the history of art of Emmanuel Régent, ecology and science fiction for Guillaume Dénervaud, space and matter for Lucia Bru, the body’s defence mechanisms for Marie-Anne Franqueville, the perception and materialisation of sound for Oliver Beer, or the geological history of crystal for Olivier Sévère.
For Gaël Charbau, the curator of this group exhibition, these pieces point to “the unique atmosphere of these fiery workshops, which constitutes a world apart from our own in which creators allow themselves to explore new artistic perspectives” in ongoing dialogue with the master glassmakers. In this way, the “grains of their imaginings become the titular burning sands”. Visitors can discover these burning sands at La Grande Place, at the heart of the Musée du Cristal Saint-Louis, amidst the unceasing drone of the kilns which, thanks to the exacting gestures of the glassmakers, continuously transform and fuse raw materials into exceptional pieces of craftsmanship.