Glass Studio at AFAD
In 1965 a new studio appeared at VŠVU (Academy of Fine Arts and Design) – Department of Glass in Architecture, led by Václav Cigler. His own creative potential enabled him to introduce glass to students in different aspects, not only in interior and exterior architecture, but also in design, free creation or in jewels. At his leaving the studio in 1979, VŠVU was celebrating 30 years of its existence. In the publication dedicated to<br /> the anniversary, Ľudovít Petránsky, characterizing Cigler.s exceptionally complex individuality, apparently felt the need to point out that „… all aspects of assembling art glass are achievements of expression equal to other expressions of fine arts“. Thereby he wanted to equalize the status of Cigler.s specialization with those established earlier (painting, graphic art, sculpture), and above all with those explicitly non-utility ones. It was a „tribute“, which Cigler might have never desired. Later on, the studio started to be led by its graduate Askold Žáčko (1979−1990). After the changes in VŠVU following the year 1989, he was replaced by Juraj Gavula (1990−2007) and later by Viktor Oravec (2007−2010). Naturally, they had different teaching priorities influenced by their specific artistic expression, technological background and pedagogical ambitions. The studio came through its latest major crossroads two years ago. Designer and graphic artist Patrik Illo approaches the studio management with versatility and consistency, typical for his own creation as well. Together with Palo Macho, who after a year of teaching as an out college teacher is going to work as a special subject college tutor since September, they are reviewing the presentday situation and talking about their plans for the future.
When in 2010 you became the head of the studio, you changed its name from Studio +- Glass to GLASS Studio. What made you to do that?
PI: When I started working here, I had a feeling that it was necessary to get back to the fundamentals, to what glass as material means, what makes it different from other materials and what makes it specific. The new name „Glass“ emphasizes full value of the material and related technologies. The mathematical signs labelling the studio in times of the previous management looked like they wanted to take the attention away from these key items and emphasized overlapping. This tendency was also typical for older names. In times of Václav Cigler it was Glass in Architecture, in times of Askold Žáček and later, in those of Juraj Gavula, we were Studio of Glass Design. We wish our students to understand glass as a starting-point material of their creation and to be able to deliver high-quality work. Nevertheless, it does not mean we today avoid overlapping, either material or interdisciplinary one. We support overlapping but it has to have a conceptual foundation, it should not be overlapping for overlapping. That distinguishes the studio from other free and design studios, and fulfils its mission.
Does putting the Glass Studio into the boundary between free and applied arts give it an added value or is it a burden?
PI: First of all, I think that free art and design are two different things and it is necessary to approach them in such a way. It is a different regime of both thinking and creation. The studio is set to exist in both spaces. While bachelor degree students solve tasks of both disciplines, master degree gives greater freedom at selection of a more limited specialization. If the student has desire and talent, he will find his way.
It is obvious, that the studio founder Václav Cigler during his 14 years of work as the head of the studio (since its foundation in 1965) managed to create ideal conditions for all-round education and development of his students. Cigler.s glass method is almost a “terminus technicus” today. Do you feel as bearers and followers of this strongest tradition?
PM: A school is not a result of a teacher’s decision to establish his school. His school has to be the talk of the town. People talk of Brunovský.s school of graphic design, of Csudai.s school, of Cigler.s school of glass. Nowadays, the definition of Cigler.s school is modified to geometrical and spatial forms of creation. According to the information I have from my colleagues Mária Horváthová and Jozef Kolembus, Professor Cigler also supported painting on glass. I know that exactly these two students of his made multidimensional paintings on glass in contemporary factory of Technické sklo (Technical Glass) in Dúbravka. Doc. Askold Žáčko admitted me to the department with the intention to continue painting on glass, and at the same time to convey this technology also to other students. He even planned to have painting on glass as part of the department’s specialization, only under the leadership of a teacher from the painting department. The concept of the studio changed together with the change at the post of the head of the studio after November 1989.
PI: I see my work in the studio as a natural change; I am picking up the threads of its development till now. I am trying to be sensitive to its history, defi ne its pros and cons and find out, how things can work best at present. At the same time, I am trying to realize my own ideas about the course and the direction of the studio.
So what do you expect from more intensive cooperation of the pedagogical trio Patrik Illo – Palo Macho − Milan Opálka?
PI: I have a vision of what should a successful studio graduate know, what should he go through during his studies. Subject structure and semester tasks themselves are adjusted to it. We have introduced new subjects, which should give students new material knowledge, develop essential craft and technology habits and skills. In bachelor studies we focus on teaching technology and crafts, which could later be a driving force of our students’ creativity. At the same time, we encourage them to inventively push forward the learned classic glassmaking technologies to other settings and forms within their own creation. In master studies we put the emphasis on creative and intellectual aspect creation.
PM: Each person of the „trio“ expresses himself by means of a different glassmaking artistic language. Milan Opálka was working as a VŠVU college tutor at the time I was taking talent examinations. His long teaching practice therefore
gives him he chances. Generally, I am expecting first of all a better orientation of students in situation at domestic and world art scene, more effective cooperation with foreign countries and increased interest in foreign internships. Paradoxically, foreign students were coming to our atelier in the past and our students did not sufficiently use the possibilities, which such stays were offering. We had students from the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, France, Estonia and Spain. However, I expect from students most of all better mastering of technologies, so that they are able to decide which technology to use at realizing of their ideas. We would also like to start teaching new technologies, such as blowing glass over a burner, curved plastic sculpture or grinding within design – the technology scale is very wide.
Which institutions are connected with the Studio by closest relations, regarding its creative process and its results presentation?
PI: Nova Gallery has been giving our students a chance of presentation for a log time. In 2011 the gallery together with our studio arranged the exhibition and competition Cena galérie Nova (Nova Gallery Award) in Médium Gallery. Next year, in cooperation with these two galleries, we are planning to organize an exhibition Prístupy − Approaches, introducing works of glassmaking studios students from at least V4 countries. This year we have for example started our cooperation with Kováč Company of Dubnica nad Váhom, which specializes in complex sheet glass surfacing. We were working on a glass furniture project together. Cooperation with external environment is necessary for our studio. The key cooperation is particularly the joint work programme with Skláreň Rona, a.s. (Rona Glassworks), where our students regularly realize their semester tasks. Their designs stay in the glassworks sample room and in case a customer shows interest in them, they will be included in production, while the fee pertains not only to the student, but also to our studio.