Blow and behold
The Observer (London, England) Sunday, May 29, 2005
Byline: Caroline Boucher
A group of schoolchildren was sitting at the base of Dale Chihuly's The Sun at the entrance to the Princess of Wales conservatory. Sketchbooks at the ready, they manfully attempted to capture the massive, yellow, Medusa-like tangle of glass. What did they think of it? 'It's the sun, it's shining isn't it?' they said.
Exhibiting at Kew has been a major ambition - 'a dream come true' - for this American artist who trained in glass-blowing when it was quite unfashionable in the early Sixties. He's done installations in botanical gardens in America, but now Chihuly's glass forms are sprouting all over Kew. They writhe up poles, float in the ponds, undulate in the undergrowth. Some complement their surroundings, some fight it. The most successful are in the Princess of Wales conservatory, where the architectural shapes of the cacti are set off by his red-and-blue spears, or fierce, bright green spears among some spiky clumps.
Outside the Palm House, one side of the pond is dotted with floating glass bulbs in red, orange, yellow and blue. Anchored on the far bank is a gondola-shaped boat filled with wriggling glass shapes like a mad toy carnival - a homage, perhaps, to Chihuly's pupilage at the Venini glass factory in Venice. All the children loved the bobbing floats and the works in the glasshouses; the die-hard plantsmen visitors seemed rather purse-lipped about it. 'I wouldn't want one as a present,' said a woman.