chihuly multicoloured fiori

It’s hard not to enjoy gazing at colourful forms that sparkle and twinkle, and that demand very little from you in return other than admiration. I think this is why the kid inside all of us loves fireworks, and why both toddlers and grownups alike love the Chihuly exhibition on at Toronto’s ROM (Royal Ontario Museum). Because whether you are an art aficionado or someone who just likes to colour inside – or outside – of the lines, these giant glass installations are sure to delight you.

Since this really is a visual feast for the eyes I’ll let the photos do most of the talking in this post. (But don’t worry, there’s still much more to see if you are planning to visit the museum!)

Glass Fiori (flowers) are a signature Chihuly form

chihuly fiori red

Glass ‘fiori’ in Chihuly’s Persian Ceiling installation

If you’ve ever been to the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas, you’ll recognize these “fiori” (flowers) since they adorn the ceiling over the main reception desk in that hotel. But in this installation, Chihuly uses these flowers differently, to suggest the colours and patterns in the design of Persian rugs. For this reason, he installs hundreds of these flowers in the ceiling, so that they all contained behind a glass panel, but when viewed from below, create depth and dimension like the patterns of a persian carpet.

chihuly persian room

The Persian Ceiling is best viewed while lounging on the cushions that are provided in this installation at the ROM.

Inspired by bonfires, perhaps?

Chihuly’s inspiration comes from everywhere, and he is the only one who can rightfully say what was the specific motivation behind each piece. But I like to think that this one is a particularly Canadian piece, because it looks like a giant bonfire, something that feels completely at home up here in the Great White North. And the way the light illuminates the ‘tips’ of these flames and makes them visually dance is particularly beautiful.

chihuly birch logs

I like to think of this one as a Chihuly bonfire of molten glass!

An underwater garden comes alive with light

chihuly marine garden

The underwater world comes to life on both an abstract and a literal level with this huge piece which incorporates finely detailed sea creatures amidst more interpretive forms.

chihuly blue crystal garden

Blue crystals like this giant one came in many colours, including a shimmering metallic gold.

A different kind of cornucopia

Chihuly has done several boat installations in his portfolio of work, with different forms and shapes, but I particularly loved the colours of this one and the organic movement of the blue spears and pink ‘explosions’ dripping over the sides.

chihuly boat

Mirrored bases allow for more light reflection within Chihuly’s huge installations.

Organic forms of flora and fauna

chihuly blue tree

Blue tree-cum-chandelier, this one resting on the floor versus hanging in space.

chihuly tentacles

Tentacles seem medusa-like on this particular sculpture

Native American arts inspires Chihuly

I had no idea that Chihuly had such an extensive personal collection of Native American baskets, some of which provided inspiration for Chihuly’s glass interpretations (these baskets are also priceless in their own right and a bonus to see in the exhibition.)

chihuly native basket inspiration

Just a few of the glass pieces inspired by Native American baskets

Likewise this enviable collection of Pendleton blankets, prized for their colours and patterns since they were first produced at the beginning of the 20th century.

chihuly pendleton blankets

Pendleton blankets were woven commercially using Native American iconography and patterns but with more vibrant colours and more detail.

Chihuly is a multi-media master

I was pleasantly surprised to see several serigraphs and lithographs in Toronto’s Chihuly exhibition. Up until this show, I had only seen a few of these works at the Chihuly gallery in St. Petersburg, Florida, and thought that these other paper works were few and far between. But it’s easy to see that whether he is working with paint or glass, Chihuly has a style and colour palette that is recognizably his, whichever medium he chooses.

chihuly vessels

Whether he works with paint or glass, Chihuly’s colour palette and mastery of light are unmistakably his.

The Chihuly Exhibition is on at the ROM until January 2, 2017. Tickets are $17 but include admission to the permanent collections as well. For more about Dale Chihuly, read his biography here.

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