Chen Peiper’s glass displayed in Venice
Israel-based glass artist Chen Peiper created the installation ‘Covitrum’ as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The work, exhibited at the ‘Personal Structures – Reflections’ show at the Venice 2022 Art Biennial, is a series of unrecognisable portraits, none of which shows gender, age, skin colour, or country of origin.
Covitrum comprises 13 ‘man-sized’ portraits of about 30cm x 30cm, along with five ‘child-size’ portraits. The total of 18 is significant because in gematria – the assignation of numeric values to Hebrew letters – the number 18 means ‘chai’, or ‘life’.
The faces of the installation are universal and at the same time they are all different: the masks they wear reflect each person’s need to express their personality and individualism.
Chen made a conscious decision to keep the faces almost identical; they do not show identity or gender, but only express emotions. Viewers contemplating the work notice these emotions, and that humanises the masked faces. The masks, however, are all very different. Chen treats each face and its mask as a whole, but allows the viewers to switch masks in their imagination.
As the show guide notes, ‘The mask is a tool of pretence and protection, and it allows introspection; it gives the artist a creative space in which she chooses whether to hide or to reveal identity or feelings. Chen chose to tell her story on each mask. But, as always in art, the viewers can tell themselves completely different stories.’
In addition, during ‘The Italian Glass Weeks’, held in Milan and Venice in September 2022, Chen showed her work ‘Refugees’ (‘Rfugiati’) at the Pallazo Loredan.
This piece is a sensitive response to the experience of people who have fled their countries across wild seas in inhuman conditions.
Chen explains, “The colours of the sky and the sea and, in between, human beings. This is the essence of the work ‘Refugees’. The sea is their last refuge. The use of the magnifying glass and a ‘net of hope’ overwhelms this global problem. Images emerge from countless events of refugees at sea, on their way in search of a safe haven.”
Chen Peiper is a multidisciplinary artist who designs jewellery and sculptures using materials such as gold, silver, stainless steel, aluminium and copper. In the recent years she has started combining glass and metal in her works.
Find out more here.
Main image: ‘Covitrum’ by Chen Peiper, which was displayed in Venice, Italy in 2022.