No Strings, ‘Beads in a Modern Context’

Earlier today I visited the National Glass Centre in Sunderland to view the “No Strings” exhibition. The works of art were created by seven international artists using glass beads. Having previously worked with this medium I was incredibly excited to see the unconventional ways the beads were used.

The gallery was open and spacious, with plenty of room to maintain social distancing. As you enter the exhibition space, there is a notice board on the left which gives a brief history of the glass bead and profiles of the artists.

Burger and Coke by Faranak Sohi

The first piece is a tray containing ketchup, coca-cola, burger and fries. The seed beads looked like 2mm size on the tray and 1mm size for the food items, and there are thousands in this piece. The following case contained a can of orange pop with fried egg and toast. Whilst other framed pop art style pieces, by Faranak Sohi, adorned the walls next to these cases.

To the rear of the gallery is a collection of four beaded skulls with a slight Cthulhu aesthetic, owing to the long dangling strings of beads. These were created by Jim Skull. Even though I am not usually drawn to grotesque imagery I found myself fascinated by the uniformity of beads and the symmetry.

Skull by Jim Skull
Beaded Plants by Shige Fujishiro

A large section of the exhibition space is used by the work of Shige Fujishiro. This artist uses beads threaded onto safety pins, which are then used to construct phenomenal creations. Full size dresses, potted plants, and a banquet table dressed with beaded cutlery, fruits and table cloth, are only a small selection of their shown work. The plants shown here are not on display in the main gallery, but on the balcony.

The other four artists; David Chatt, Felieke van der Leest, Ran Hwang and Caroline Broadhead all have unique works displayed, utilising different techniques to create them.

Anxiety_BL by Ran Hwang

I was really impressed with the level of detail in the work exhibited, possibly because I can appreciate the meditative monotony of threading and sewing so many beads. Even with the pieces that I struggled to connect with, I was awestruck at the level of work involved in their creation.

The No Strings exhibition is on display at the National Glass Centre, Sunderland until 12 September 2021. If you’re not able to visit in person, No Strings can be viewed online by clicking here. The web page includes an online video tour and artist profiles.

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