Review of 'Chihuly Nights'

https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/whats-on/chihuly-nights

Dale Chihuly is a truly amazing artist who can twist glass into the most amazing, organic shapes. His work hangs from the top of the atrium at London's Victoria and Albert museum which has always really captured my eye. When we heard he was putting on a exhibition at Kew Gardens this immediately drew our attention and I promptly purchased tickets for one the “Chihuly Nights” evenings where you could see the works lit up at night rather than visiting in the day as part of “Chihuly: Reflections on nature” when they, in my opinion, are not seen at their best (the daily exhibit is open from 13 April 2019 - 27 October 2019). My mother visited (during the day) only a short time before we did and told us we were right not to miss it…

Kew opened it's doors for “Chihuly Nights” between 7:30 pm and 10:30 pm (last entrance at 9:00 pm) and we found even with three hours we were hard pressed for time, even when we stopped for a few minutes for a drink from the “Pavilion Bar and Grill” for a few minutes we were anxious to keep on our way – The trail was long and took us in a counter-clockwise circuit starting from Victoria Gate in the south, then almost to the Great Pagoda in the far west of the site then past the Temperate House and onto the Waterlily House in the west…a long walk if you want to stop and admire the amazing art along the way. The path was well lit though the signs for each piece were hard to find and read in the dark…Each piece was beautifully radiant in the dark and simply stunning to look at.

Sapphire Star

The first work on the tour was “Sapphire Star” outside “The Temple of Bellona” just to the left after you enter Kew Gardens. It consisted of spokes of white glass sticking out of a sapphire blue interior much like a sun. With the temple behind it, this was wonderful.

Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art

A short walk later we came to the “Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art” where a queue informed us we were at the position of an indoor display of some more of Chihuly's works.

Gallery

Letting only a few people in at a time to avoid overcrowding, a short time later we were able to see these smaller, but still amazing pieces in several rooms of the gallery including some really small pieces that dramatically demonstrate the artist and his team's talent.

Nijima Floats

Near the pagoda in the east there was “Nijima Floats” - a display of large glass globes of amazing colour arranged on top of a wonderfully raked Japanese stone garden. With the full moon in the sky behind the nearby pagoda the scene was magical though tricky not to stumble on the surrounding grass in the pitch black…

Temperate House

In the “Temperate House” there were a large number of pieces including one reminiscent of Chihuly's V&A work hanging in the middle of the space. The glass house was lit wonderfully showing off the white Victorian architecture.

Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds

Pieces of the art were found throughout the building including out the southern doors and to the west (“Cattails and Copper Birch Reeds”) with many looking like tall slender plants sprouting from the ground in an explosion of colour and elegance.

Neodymium Reeds and Turquoise Marlins

A short walk away to the north of “King William's Temple” was the “Neodymium Reeds and Turquoise Marlins” which echoed the reeds from the temperate house but in, of course, a much darker hue here scattered amongst the real plants of the “Mediterranean Garden”.

Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower

The “Scarlet and Yellow Icicle Tower” on the Princess Walk was another massive tall and dramatic piece a short distance off the path, dramatically lighting the trees in the surrounding darkness.

Ethereal White Persian Pond

Another queue awaited outside the “Waterlily House” where “Ethereal White Persian Pond” awaited in the small, cramped interior. It was extremely warm inside as we pushed to get a better view on the narrow path surrounding the central (waterlily) pond in which sprouted a number of large white glass sculptures having shapes echoing those of the waterlily leaves. Captivating but very crowded - My advise would be to find a less crowded spot around the far side and just stop to take it all in.

Paintbrushes

The penultimate piece was “Paintbrushes” - Tall green glass stalks topped with brilliant red tips arranged around a large stone urn looking for all the world as if it was surrounded by flames.

Summer Sun

The final piece on show was “Summer Sun” to the south of the “Palm House” beside the pond - Another huge ball of pointy glass this time in red and yellow. We were able to get quite close to this piece to see that each piece of glass is unique in winding, twisting shapes. Seen from the other side of the pond, the reflection of this piece with the Palm House beyond was awe inspiring.

Generally, the evening was very enjoyable indeed with the only complaints being that it was not a lot of time to truly take in the pieces and the lack of lighting near to the exhibits meaning you often stumbled around when trying to get in close. The price was slightly expensive at £18 each given the amount of time we were allowed on-site (no, it did not include daytime admission to the gardens).

It is Chihuly's stunning use of colour and organic shapes that really captivate – It is as if you are looking at something from another planet. We were very lucky to have been able to see these in what has to be the ideal environment - Lit up in the inky blackness of Kew Gardens at night surrounded by the dark sinister shapes of the large surrounding trees.

Pictures

Here are some more amazing pictures from this show…

 

Rating:

Review Date: 2019-09-14



Kew Gardens

Location: London (England)

Address: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, Richmond, Surrey TW9 3AB

Public Transport: NRLOGO Kew Gardens TUBE Kew Gardens

Telephone: +44 (0) 20 8332 5655

URL: http://www.kew.org/

Wonderful place to visit with extensive gardens as well as the famous pagoda, the lake, and greenhouse with a very long history. The new treetop walk is also a great thing to do. Worth spending a good amount of time just wandering around - A day well spent.

There are a number of annual events held here including the Orchid Festival, “Kew the Music”, “Write on Kew” and,“Christmas at Kew”.