Essence of Cloud is a whimsical tale of intrigue, fantasy and earth repair written by a glassblower. It hovers over a family history – shamelessly inventing, embellishing, and occasionally alighting on the truth. Five centuries and seven countries are traversed in pursuit of Cloud Essence: a rare and almost indetectable substance purported to induce subtle yet profound changes in the sniffer or taster; including elation, longevity, insight and most significantly, an increase in empathy towards other living things.
The project has two main components: a multi-faceted art exhibition and a soon-to-be-released novel: the prologue of which is provided in the show as a teaser. The exhibition: on the theme of clouds and loosely illustrating the story, features hand-made glass objects and mixed-media installations comprised of wood, scent, animation, sound and found objects. Some works take the form of relief and 3d dioramas, whilst others are displayed more like museum artifacts. The show opens with a talk about cloud essence including a demonstration of the as yet unproven method of cloud essence condensation and a sniffing/tasting session.
“Essence of Cloud” says Mark, “began as a solo show, and in a sense, still is, however it is in the nature of clouds to expand before bearing the fruit of rain. As the project developed, I got interested in the many and various collaboratives aspects of art-making. In this case, the collaborations that occur when a fellow maker is asked to reinterpret a sketch into a cast glass boat or into a stained-glass window or to ‘fabricate’ frames from recycled oak. It also occurs when a scent-smith offers to design a perfume to my brief or when a restorer agrees to build a cabinet in which cloud essence bottles might have been lowered from a hot air balloon in the 1880’s.
“ In each case I am the author (borrowing as I must, from the world around me), yet the other makers bring their own creative gesture to the work. Whether this involves a kind of co-creation which forces me to change my ideas or the subtlety of a personal fingerprint left in the realizing of my design, variations in style appear like the many unique versions of a religious story portrayed in temple artworks across place and time.
“I am deeply grateful for all the help I have received in realising this project - particularly from my partner Manjit. In attributing credits, I draw on precedents like the film industry in which every contribution - be it great or small, gets a mention. Inevitably I will have missed some people as there is no end to the fine tracking of creative interconnections. Indeed, I maintain that each viewer is a major contributor to the artwork which will sprout differently in each mind, we artists providing mostly the seed.
“In the words of 17th century English poet John Donne: ‘No Man is an Island’ and at the heart of my story is an attempt to understand a basic fact that many people across the world are now rediscovering: We humans are not a lone island in a sea of lesser life-forms put here for our disposal, but a species needing to collaborate with our neighbours in the greater story of life – a lesson we absolutely must re-learn if we are to survive. Even A Deusa Solitaria das Nubes - the lonely goddess of the Clouds, craves the company of others.”