Artists in Glass: Suzanne Johnson and Ben Hanly

24 September 1985 – 16 October 1986

An exhibition of stained glass works by glass workers Johnson and Hanly featuring designs by six well-known and established artists. The traditional separation of art and craft is bridged in a complex and exciting way.

An exhibition of thirteen stained glass works featuring designs by six leading New Zealand artists will open from September 24 at the Robert McDougall Art Gallery. The glass works have been fabricated in Christchurch by glass workers Suzanne Johnston and Ben Hanly in collaboration with artists Philip Trusttum, Ralph Hotere, Pat Hanly, Claudia Pond-Eyley, Nigel Brown, Philippa Blair and Deborah Bustin.

The glass works will be instantly identifiable by anyone familiar with the artists' work. The subject matters reflect those explored in the invited artists' usual medium of choice, including windows about nuclear devastation (Hanly, Brown), environmental threats (Hotere), creatures such as lizards, birds, fish (Bustin) and the patterns of a fly swat (Trusttum).

From the artists' point of view, to translate their work into a new medium unfettered by having to master a demanding technique, can be a liberating experience. It can challenge or stimulate an artist into taking chances - exploring, bungling, discovering.

Part of Johnson's and Hanly's achievements is their translation of less apparent qualities - gesture, line, even feeling - into the difficult and intractable medium of glass.

"Stained glass work is incredibly labour-intensive", Johnston says. "Every single piece has to be cut out and put together by hand." Glass must be cut in proportion to the sketches and slid into lead framing, soldered then any special features added. Firing in a kiln bakes these into the finished picture. The largest picture has 650 pieces.

Johnston and Hanly have been in business for about five years and have exhibited work at the C.S.A gallery. They restore old stained glass as well as design and make new pieces. This exhibition will be an experiment to take an art normally associated with old buildings or modern interior design, into a gallery.


Hotere has been painting his "Window" series for some years - a kind of prophetic, schematic view from his Port Chalmers studio window, framed in a real demolition window frame. Shifting his essentially flat, diagrammatic window works to stained glass appears an effortless transition.

– Brett Riley, The Star