Chris Day (b. 1968), Under the Influence I
Handblown & sculpted glass with micro bore copper pipe, copper wire and rope (Unique)
H: 46 cm.; D.: 25 cm
Price: £3,900 inc. 20% VAT
Growing up in the West Midlands, Day (b; 1968, UK) has become Britain’s only black glassblower, or certainly the only one that the artist is aware of. He creates highly personal works in glass and mixed media and his intention is to discuss and investigate the treatment of black people in Britain & the USA, with much of his research focussing on the history of the slave trade in the Eighteenth Century and the events leading to up & during the Civil Rights Movement.
The Under the Influence series was made specifically for Harewood House in Leeds, forms the focal point in the exhibition curated by Vessel director Angel Monzon. It is inspired by the discovery of twenty-eight bottles of Harewood Rum from the plantations in a cellar in 2011. The Harewood bottles were sold in 2013-14, and the proceeds donated to the Geraldine Connor Foundation. Day’s bottle sculptures are designed to remind us of the importance of rum in the slave trade and its particular significance for Harewood.
On each bottle is a cap made out of rope, instead of a cork stopper, to evoke the sensation of being bound, as the Africans were when they were shipped over to the Caribbean to harvest the sugar from which the rum was made. The trails of blue glass wrapped around the bottles lend them an exquisite richness, which also suggests the Atlantic Ocean. The sculptures are very heavy; as Day makes them, he says, ‘I feel as though I’m putting all my anger, all my emotions into them, not only mentally, but physically.’
The title is a play on the idea of rum as strong alcohol with the ‘influence’ of the slave trade over contemporary society, to the extent that this barbaric practice was hardly questioned, even by the church. The work also reminds us that slavery continues today, albeit in the shadows.