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Behind Glass

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  • W700 Crafts
  • Design
  • Philosophy
  • Political Science


Behind Glass (BG) consists a series of objects devised to explore the presentation of artworks and the conventions surrounding the display of artefacts in gallery/museum settings. Rowe’s research reflects on the particular kinds of attention and focus we bring to bear on objects placed behind glass, by setting up situations and scenarios calculated to disturb the normal expectations of the viewer. Through interventions with other objects, treated as assemblages, and with the vitrine itself, Rowe explores the de-contextualising and re-contextualising of objects, questioning preciousness in objects and associated cultural values and value judgements. BG1 (2009), BG4 (2011) and BG6 (2013) are innovative in their use of precious metal in this context. Rowe capitalises on silver’s precious qualities as an especially appropriate material and vehicle for setting up atmospheres of expectation that when confounded not only expose the mutability of the viewer’s interpretative mechanisms, but also open speculations on the nature of everyday objects and our relation to them. The objects are designed in ways that purposefully blur the boundaries between art objects and their physical contexts. In other works – BG2 (2009), BG3 (2009) and BG5 (2010) – the framing of pictures behind glass is explored using similar strategies, the canvas being replaced by an industrial product: textured aluminium sheet. The series was shown with Gallery SO, London at ‘COLLECT’ 2009, 2010 and 2013. It was also shown at the Goldsmith’s Company’s London exhibition, ‘Mindful of Silver’ (2011). Rowe gave lectures explaining his creative approach and the aesthetic principles underpinning Behind Glass at the Oslo National Academy of the Arts (2009), the Akademie der Bildenden Künste, Munich (2011), and at ‘Eredoctoraat Michael Rowe: Lectures on Contemporary Metalwork’, a seminar following his being awarded an Honorary Doctorate by the University of Hasselt, Belgium (2010).

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