Smash hit

Conceptual art meets avant-garde design in grand-scale cracked-glass pieces

Smashing a sheet of industrial glass with a hammer is, most often, an act of destruction. For George Papadopoulos, however, it’s a way of creating beautiful, bespoke artworks and striking architectural features. Gazing at them is like looking at broken ice, flowing water or the fleeting glimpse of a butterfly’s wings – visual poetry.

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The London-based artist has made the process very much his signature style, attracting clients fascinated by his work’s visceral nature. He developed his technique when studying ceramics at London’s Royal College of Art and he accidentally smashed a sheet of laminated glass. Intrigued by its appearance, he began colouring the glass and adding further texture. After graduating in 1999, he set up his north London studio, where industrial glass is shattered using hammers, bricks and electrical currents to create various visual effects. Sometimes, Papadopoulos sandblasts the glass, but more often “textures” it using mixed media, including wax, glass enamels, silicone gels, gold leaf, dried leaves – and even coffee grounds. He then relaminates it to create large-scale artworks that appear fragile but are highly durable. Another method involves sandwiching coloured resins between two sheets of clear glass. “I let the process guide me and love not knowing exactly what I will get,” says Papadopoulos.

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Commissions often come via interior designers, but a recent partnership with Saffron Interior Arts means that it is now possible to order site-specific pieces directly – with Saffron’s artistic director, Caroline Shamash, on hand to help if required. “Most people request functional pieces that block a view while allowing light through, or they want a focal point with real ‘wow’ factor,” says Papadopoulos. Depending on size, the panels can be wall-mounted or hung on chains (circular, 40cm-diameter, ceiling-hung pieces, from £5,000), or they can be fixed as freestanding structures on metal stands (from £13,000 for a 2.5m x 40cm panel, examples in second and third pictures). They are often used as room dividers or incorporated into window spaces (example in first picture). One client commissioned a panel on rollers (about £20,000), which smartly separates the dining and seating areas within an open-plan living space. Another wanted an artistic bathroom window (about £24,000 for a 1.8m x 70cm panel), while a triptych created for one London residence has given an inner courtyard a wonderfully dramatic vibrancy (similar commissions from £50,000).

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