This fused glass piece is the culmination of 5 months of research and development into belief systems and life after death and formed the basis of my BA Art & Design submission.  The following is a comprehensive explanation of the piece for those that wish to understand it better. 

The piece is called ‘Antemortem’ (before death) and is a modern day totem that depicts the life of my family group in a set of four illuminated glass towers set on a concrete and resin base.

Only the dead know about life after death however, the living can recount the life that was and its legacy; as acknowledged by many religious or belief systems.  I wanted to create a piece that embraced these ideas yet was specifically placed in our period of time, a modern day totem that has the potential to provide clues as to its intent and its origins for archaeologists and historians of tomorrow to ponder and mystify over.

Each of the four towers reflects the nurturing environment that each of the family group has grown in.  Each tower is made of solid colours (opaque glass which get their colours from the light they reflect) and clear colours (transparent glass that transmits its colour from light passing through it).  Each tower comprises of several layers of both solid and clear glass fused into a yearly block that captures the stage and experiences of that year.

The solid colours represent the major stages of life, adopting the colour of uniform or corporate identity readily associated with that period.  However, as in life, people often only see a uniform and not the person within, just as the person themselves may adopt a façade or a persona.

The clear colours represent the events, activities and skills that we experience as we travel through life.  Some experiences are a fleeting moment and pass to memory while others continue with us on our journey and add to the person we become.  We assimilate these experiences and while they can still be recognised on their own, they tend to merge with other experiences to produce something new and unique to us as individuals.  Standing still, you can see these individual colours, however, as you walk around or look up and down the towers these colours merge with those around them and convey this principle; strips of blue and yellow become green, reds and yellows become orange and, occasionally, you’ll find a small piece of unassociated reflected light within a clear strip; a reflection from deep within that adds to our colourful characters.  These clear colours are back lit from the core of the towers allowing the real person within to shine.

Each of the towers are topped with a metal cap that has space to allow the towers to grow while also having slots and a hole on the top that, once screwed fully down at the end of life, allow the core light to travel upwards and onwards as though our spirit ascending.

The shapes are derived from the residential tower blocks that have been present throughout my personal and working life; they have emerged during my lifetime and are now starting to disappear.  As such they are synonymous with this period of time and place the piece specifically in history.  The concrete base represents the material of the tower blocks and the concrete jungles that surround them.

Thanks to Berryhill Blacksmiths for their collaboration with the ironmongery.


My family totem