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Randolph Parker, Shoal Lake Elm Tree, 2018, acrylic on canvas, 101.6 x 76.2 cm / 40 x 30 in, N 49º 30' 22.24" W 95º 02' 32.59"

Ione Thorkelsson, Mundus adaptat, 2012, cast glass, lichen, root, and found metal, 23.5 x 19.5 x 34 cm

Ione Thorkelsson (1947 — ) is one of Canada’s leading glass artists, and has delighted national and international audiences with solo shows at the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Thunder Bay Art Gallery, and the Canadian Clay and Glass Museum, and with exhibitions in Korea, Belgium, and Thailand.  

“Glass has an effect that is like nothing else. You can make it translucent, transparent or opaque. I’m working with emotion and mood as well as with ideas and glass can do that for you.”

– Ione Thorkelsson, Canadian Clay and Glass Gallery, 2016

Ione first studied architecture at the University of Manitoba, then worked behind the scenes in theatre and ballet, before she discovered glass. That same year, in 1973, Ione opened her first studio where she began crafting vases, perfume bottles, and other blown glass vessels. In 1993, Thorkelsson began experimenting with various glass casting techniques and by 2005, Ione had abandoned blown glass entirely in favour of kiln-fired cast glass.

“I had begun my casting experiments using natural forms with no particular end in mind. I was pouring plaster directly over the organic object and then burning the object out of the mold in the kiln and I was accumulating an odd assortment of cast glass plant and animal parts. At one point, I tried attaching some of them to blown glass shapes…and with that everything changed. As soon as I added a pair of feet to a sphere, it got up and walked around the room. I was astounded. Suddenly, this abstract shape became a character; it had mysteriously acquired a personality, a sense of humour or a tragic past. I found myself becoming attached to these pieces, wanting to discover their history. It was as if while walking down a hall I passed a door that I had never noticed, slightly ajar. I gave the door a little nudge and it opened up and I wandered in. It turned out to be a vast chamber, a room I never even knew existed in the house of glass.”

– Ione Thorkelsson, artist talk at ACAD, 2012

Ione has devoted decades to exploring the technical and often unforgiving medium of glass, and her commitment and skill has been widely recognized and praised. In 2007, Ione was inducted into the Royal Canadian Academy of Arts and, in 2010, she was recognized with the Governor General’s Award (Saidye Bronfman Award). Thorkelsson has also received notable commissions, including public art installations at the James Armstrong Richardson International Airport in Winnipeg and the Canadian Embassy in Hong Kong.

“Entranced by the glorious possibilities of glass, Thorkelsson explores the physicality of the medium and in turn expands the viewer’s expectations of glass in her highly involved and technically demanding cast pieces. Allowing her ideology to be led by the medium, rather than imposing it upon the glass, she feels removed from conceptual art practice, instead preferring to refer to her production as craft-based.” 

– Helen Delcretaz, the WAG, 2004

Ione’s work has been described as being, at once, both breathtakingly beautiful and wonderfully morbid. Working from her studio in rural Manitoba, far from the main centres of Canadian glass art, Thorkelsson draws on the natural world for subjects. She uses found elements like skulls, spines, feathers, roots and tree limbs in her pieces and to create moulds. The peculiar cast glass objects she creates are “at once recognizable yet vastly unfamiliar” (Helen Delacretaz, STUDIO magazine, 2010) and Ione seems to thrive in ambiguous spaces. This ambiguity is rooted deep in Ione’s practice, which she describes as falling into the grey area between “art” and “craft” — a space that she delights in occupying.

The Douglas Family Art Centre is pleased to present Mundus adaptat, which showcases nine exquisite cast glass sculptures by Ione Thorkelsson.

Did you know?

Norval Morrisseau is the grandfather of the Woodland School style of art.