A Giraffe and an Elephant

Submitted by John Clark

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Client

Location: Nairobi, Kenya

Artwork budget: $35,000

Project Team

Artist

John Kenneth Clark

Assistant

Beatrice Gathungu

Overview

I was asked to prepare a design for a private villa in Karen, Nairobi. It was to be a joyous happy work that receives direct sunlight in the morning. I was basically given no direction other than the sun should be there and it should be African in some way.
I have been experimenting with Bullseye Glass for several years but mainly as a relief sculpture medium, but always wanted to make a cut-out window using the method developed by Matisse for his famous paper cut drawings. He also had made a set of windows for The Chapelle du Rosaire using this method to design the windows.
I presented the clients with examples of composition using the Matisse cut outs as the design to explain the method and although they loved this approach wanted something more personal.
The window is in a staircase landing location and it occurred to me that if a Giraffe walked by, you would see the head and neck. I created a first design. The clients loved it but also asked if there could be a variation also to include an elephant. The only way of having an elephant that I could envisage would be if it was reaching up with its trunk extended. Hence this design.
The steel frame structure was pre-existent and a given. I designed the concept with Bullseye glass surface fused from the beginning.

Goals

There was a blank space overlooking an outhouse roof. To create a beautiful and joyous piece to commemorate someone.
The villa is full of art works and this space was crying out for a window.
The frame was there and should be retained. In Nairobi it is a safety feature.

Process

The design was accepted. From the beginning I had seen this as being made of Bullseye Glass. I had spent time in 2019 researching the uses of the glass in Portland, Oregon, and one of the samples I made was glass cut out using a recently developed glass saw which allows shapes to be created that were previously not possible. Add to this Bullseye Glass manufactured to be able to be fused, that is “melted together”.
Having this knowledge, creating this work was technically quite easy. The glass was cut deliberately leaving white gaps between the pieces. This was something I have long enjoyed but was difficult to achieve using standard materials.
When cut, all the pieces were assembled and fixed in place on 6mm base Bullseye Glass and fused at around F1450.
I intentionally wanted that the glass pieces did not sink into the base glass but remained elevated. Each piece of glass therefore has highlights and shadows.
Following firing, the glass was cleaned and ready to be installed.