Nature has inspired artistic expression since it began, a tradition which Auckland glass artist Stephen Bradbourne is keenly aware of. Looking out from his studio window at a lush subtropical garden it is no wonder nature and flora in particular have a strong presence in Bradbourne’s practice.
Verdant colours and leaf shapes serve as initial starting points but from there Bradbourne’s pieces depart from accurate representations of specific plants. Not interested in exact replication of nature in glass Bradbourne uses flora as a basis for formal explorations of the structures, patterns and decorative assemblages of pattern, through the use of small glass elements known as murrini. Murrini an ancient technique revived in Italy in the 16th century involves the creation of coloured patterns in glass cane (long rods of glass) that are revealed when cut in crosssections. These murrini are arranged and then assembled to create his fine complex patterns in glass. Bradbourne’s long fascination with this technique fuels an inspired exploration of “imagined” skeletal structures and patterns. These formal explorations in pattern lend themselves to minute inspection, something Bradbourne acknowledges through the framing choices he makes.
There is a nod to traditional scientific methods of preserving botanical specimens in containers, evoked in his blown “specimen jars” as well as to more museological methods of display where objects are displayed in space so they can be viewed in the round as seen in the metal stands that allow the leaf forms to stand freely in space, or float out from the wall, free from the claustrophobic pages of a botanical book. The result is Bradbourne’s own fantastical herbarium (a collection of preserved plant specimens) in glass.
Stephen Bradbourne trained in Glass and Ceramics at Carrington Polytechnic, completing both a certificate and diploma in Craft Design. Bradbourne has exhibited throughout New Zealand in both group and solo exhibitions and is recognised for his striking blown vessels and platters.
In 2007 Bradbourne was named the Overall Winner in the Molly Morpeth Canaday awards and also won the Cavalier Bremworth Luminous Art of Glass Awards. Public collections include Auckland War Memorial Museum, Auckland; Ebeltoft Museum, Ebeltoft, Denmark; Wallace Arts Trust, Auckland; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Wellington and Parliament Collection, Wellington.