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Václav Cigler: Spherical Spaces

By Jana Šindelová


Round Panorama, 2009
optical glass
13 x 13 x 9
photo: Avraham Hay
and Yona Schley

“Universe…world…life…an impetus and a challenge understanding the secret of the challenge is to understand the sense of one’s own, and not only one’s one life.”
Václav Cigler

Spheres as spherical spaces or forms have been represented in Václav Cigler’s work since the 1960s. As a universal space around the globe, or the arch of the heavens, spheres have long been the inspiration for his visionary architectonic projects. Fascination with the universe, the first space flights and the construction of interplanetary laboratories, as well as spherical organic forms in nature, serve as inspirations for Cigler’s sculptural expressions.

Since the late 1950s, Václav Cigler has focused on glass sculpture. His objects are based on the formal language of optical lenses, pebbles and natural boulders, stylized male and female contours, often referencing an ovoid or egg-like form. The first spherical half-eggs were exhibited in a solo exhibition of Cigler’s work in Museum Boymans-van Beuningen in Rotterdam in 1975. In these seminal works, concealed beneath the apparent simplicity of the shapes and material, lies an inner world much more resonant than that which we see on the surface. For example, Round Panorama is based on the shape of a pebble eroded by water and modeled by nature. It is as if it came into being gradually by the action of organic influences and pressures. In Cigler’s conceptualization, it is a rounded, optical panorama in which we cannot see the edges of the planes, and therefore the reflected image of the surrounding landscape.


Vane, 2008
metal-sheathed optical glass
10 x 10 x 4
photo: Michal Motycka
and Martin Vican

Vane is an optical glass object with a clear, partially metal coil leading to an aperture in the center affording us an undistorted view of the landscape. Upon looking deeply into this object, we find ourselves confronted with the distorted reflection of the reality behind us, and the partially framed landscape before us; our eye is thus drawn into a new visual perspective—we perceive a collage-like space of reflections of reality. Couple of Hemispheres is a sculpture inspired by gravity and the movement of bodies in the universe. It is also influenced by observation of the transformations of the shape of the sphere in the intermediate phases of the moon. Column constitutes the vertical axis of a three-sided prism of optical glass, which is capable of causing under certain conditions both refraction of light and partial reflection, thus creating new light, chromatic and spatial relationships.

Spheres in Cigler’s conception can also be interpreted as primal embryos that link the dual energies of body and soul; or as embodiments of the living essence of man, animal or plant, all dependent on the emergence of the living cell. The cell itself creates its own construction materials and builds the body on the basis of genetic information, which it “decodes”” and therefore “contains” in principle, birthing a new world. Is this process not similar to the emergence of a work of art? In ancient art based on mythology, the so-called universal egg was a symbol of the beginning of new life, civilizations and cultures. In fine art referencing the creation of the world, it is man’s creation or creation by man that is most frequently depicted. But Cigler is fascinated by the living presence of matter—that which could be “before life” as if there exists a “first moment.”


Column, 1990
optical glass
94 x 4 x 4 cm
photo: Michal Motycka
and Martin Vican

Cigler’s Spheres installation designed for Litvak Gallery is created not only as an artistic whole, but also as an event. It becomes a living organism that has its own horizons and relationships. Our presence co-creates it, and therefore also transforms it. It consists of “spheres” above the individual centers of objects or above their common focal points, which within themselves connect their own inner and outer embryonic symbols. They surround us. They completely fill the space with their radiance, just like a cosmic element, if we were to place it in an imaginary space. The egg as universal egg is endowed with a sense of the infinity of space and time on both a macro and micro scale. It has a sense of infinite depth as well as a sense of proportion. In its dimensions and effect, it appears incredibly calibrated. At the same time, the egg is not defined mathematically as either a body or a shape. It is as if all the enchanting play of light on the surface ever recedes into new dimensions of universal substance. Eggs have their interior, we might say their “just-for-themselves,” their embryonic energy and their secrets. Cigler leads us into this intimate space by his meditation on the work itself: “I am excited only by art created out of compulsion, out of intoxication, out of excess pressure, out of an obsession with searching. I am excited only by that which is ingrained, fervent, pure. I am excited by the hidden mystery of internal order. I want to track it down, try to reveal it.”

Cigler’s work concentrates on objects made from optical glass—designs and realizations of illuminated objects and jewelry, drawings, installations and compositions for architecture representing five principles: space, glass, water, light and the individual. Space and glass become elements of communication; water and light symbolize the basic elements of life such that the observing individual and space fuse with the art. Cigler has a special gift—a kind of “feeling for space”, a need to transform material not into a form of an object, but into a manner of existence—a process drawing the viewer into a spatial experience. Cigler explains, “Glass may continue to dazzle us with the exterior beauty of its surface, but increasing attention is being paid the entire volume of glass, which draws people in and submerges them. Glass can be a panel or a wall, a sensitive, protective organism reacting to light, heat, changing its color and transparency.”

Space as a means of communication is the fundamental structural motif in Cigler’s work: “I organize space, define and open it, for me a person is both form and content, everything is human to me.” Since the 1960s, Cigler has been intrigued with the relationship between the landscape and the person situated within. Free hand drawings give shape to his ideas for architectural installation which he conceives of as encapsulations, always keeping the viewer in mind, for whom he would like to reveal the most luminous and spatial environments; spaces where we can listen to text or music, meditate, be alone with, and calm ourselves.


Couple of Hemispheres, 2008
glass, 13.5 x 12 x 13.5
photo: Avraham Hay
and Yona Schley

Meeting Place in the countryside is an environmental installation defined by light, a place of certain definition, both in terms of the ground space and its relation to the space above. We can meet here; perhaps look up at the sky. Cigler has always been fascinated with landscapes and the potential to influence them, not merely by walking through them. “Nature is partially hidden, everyone experiences it in their own way, this unpreparedness may also be an adventure.” His basic impetus for creating landscape projects has been the confrontation between organic natural forms, which can be made more legible as one walks through landscaped space, with recognizable vertical or horizontal forms. An island in the shape of a fingerprint is placed within a great round form of the Earth, into which we may enter and meditate. A cut in the landscape in the form of lips appears to be a decoration. Cigler’s places, bathed in golden light, are a tribute to multifarious forms of Earth’s landscape and its sacredness. “The Earth is precious, the Earth is sacred, and in this environment, which is being pushed to the limits of use, it is a reminder that we must handle it with care.”

Water as a principle is ever present in Cigler’s work as a fundamental element of life, as well as that of the human experience in the sense that both mediate an interaction with nature. Cigler proposes and creates fluid objects—wells, still or rippling water, mirrored benches on the water or water sanctuaries. His most systematic approach to this topic was his entry in the First International Water Sculpture Competition, Louisiana World Exposition 1984. By means of the forms of the objects, for example, glass receptacles for river water juxtaposed with a receptacle for highly purified water, he foregrounded various “purification systems.” He created sculpture models in the form of water blossoms, water gates, glass footbridges and water pipes in sketches, drawings, models and modifications of photographs. The intention in the winning design of the fountain was to create a final image of a “rainbow,” under the arc of which it would be possible to walk along a metal grid positioned at the mouth of the Mississippi. Still topical are unrealized water projects and compositions of objects on water in the form of floats or buoys. Natural light and water, with which Cigler works in landscape sculpture designs, are substituted in the studio with the diffraction and reflection of light in glass elements. In both, he directs a dialogue between the space and the viewer, orienting him/her towards a place of solitude as well as a gathering place, with the goal of “leading the pedestrian through walls of water, live vegetation or vertical blossoming surfaces, curtains of light, mists or scents.”

He opens up the landscape or presents teasing glimpses of it through narrow apertures leading the viewer to perceive an exterior or interior landscape with horizon, shape, color, substance, scent, light and light vibrations. He designs paths and glass footbridges on water, retreats and refuges, sanctuaries formed from meshes for climbing plants in the form of pergolas. Elsewhere he extends viewing points telescopically towards the crowns of trees, to the sky, to benign silence. He is interested in the creation of relationships—dual relationships—the unity of person and space, of places and the order within them, of inner form and outer environment.

Glass is for Cigler a pretext for expressing a different spatial and emotional perception of the world. The glass object thus not only becomes material within space but simultaneously a literal and figurative sphere that merges people and space—coloring, reflecting, refracting and unfolding, transforming both viewer and viewed.

Cigler is thorough and tirelessly meticulous. As an artist he is convinced that he bears final responsibility for his exhibits, for the installations and selection of works, as well as the form and content of the catalog. He designs, transects spaces with varying media, speaks through projection, transforms through process, and often dramatically provokes. His works could not be realized without the technical assistance of Miroslav Špacek and Jan Frydrych’s perfect execution of cut glass objects. Since 1999, Cigler has collaborated with the architect Michal Motycka, who prepares his exhibitions and resolves apparently simple projects from the 1960s in relation to their promised spaces for realization.

Jana Šindelová studies Arts and Crafts Education, Pedagogical Faculty, Palacky University, Olomouc, Czech Republic; Art Theory and History, Philosophical Faculty, Palacky University, Olomouc; Academy of Fine Arts, Prague. Since 2004 she has collaborated as a curator with the architect Michal Motycka.

Published in conjunction with Litvak Gallery’s presentation at SOFA CHICAGO 2009.

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The Sculpture Objects Functional Art + Design (SOFA) Fair in Chicago is the premier gallery-presented art fair dedicated to three-dimensional art and design. On par with Art Basel and TEFAF Maastricht, SOFA is produced by Urban Expositions.

Critically acclaimed and continuously running since 1994, what distinguishes SOFA from other top art events is its focus on three-dimensional artworks that cross the boundaries of fine art, decorative art and design.  SOFA is noted for its exceptional presentation, with an elite selection of international dealers presenting for sale one-of-a-kind masterworks in handsome, custom-designed gallery exhibits.

SOFA is held annually in the fall at Chicago's major destination, Navy Pier, with an average of 80 dealers and 35,000 people attending.

SOFA CHICAGO / Tickets & Showtimes

Urban Expositions presents SOFA CHICAGO 2015 at Navy Pier's Festival Hall (600 E. Grand Avenue, Chicago, Ill. 60611) Nov. 6 - 8, with the Opening Night Preview Thursday, Nov. 5.

Day Date Hours Purchase Tickets
Thursday Nov. 5 7 pm to 9 pm Tickets ($50)
Friday Nov. 6 11 am to 7 pm Tickets ($20)
Saturday Nov. 7 11 am to 7 pm Tickets ($20)
Sunday Nov. 8 Noon to 6 pm Tickets ($20)

One general admission ticket of $20 admits visitors to the fair, related lecture series, special exhibits and events. $30 three-day passes and discounted student, senior and group tickets are also available. The public is also invited to the Opening Night Preview, Thursday, Nov. 5, 7 to 9 p.m. Preview tickets are $50.