Article by Mark Raynes Roberts

I
ARRIVED IN TORONTO in 1982 as a newly minted gold and silversmith from Birmingham, England, with my specialty being the fine art of hand engraving. Although I still occasionally incorporate silver and gold into some of my creations, my focus and chosen medium now is crystal. Over the past 33 years I have been fascinated by this man-made material, a 5th-dimensional canvas that provides me with endless possibilities.

The two techniques I employ are intaglio diamond-wheel engraving, which dates back to Babylonian times (3000 BC), and diamond-point stippling, a very labour-intensive technique dating back to the seventeenth century in Holland. Unlike the hot-glass artist who can melt down and reuse material as necessary, I work with optical-telescopic-quality crystal as my canvas, which requires a steadiness of hand and a high level of precision. Creating sculpture this way is best described as a tightrope walk with no net, with a potential abyss waiting to swallow you up. I consider it art in its purest sense, as I don’t allow for preconception nor do I draw anything onto the crystal. Rather, I work directly onto the material and let myself be taken subconsciously inside a pristine, crystal-lined room where there’s no door and where time stands still. I become a conduit, that is all.

Excerpted from Fall/Winter 2015 Ornamentum. Click here to subscribe.

Mark Raynes Roberts is a crystal artist, designer, and photographer based in Toronto. His exhibition ILLUMINATION—Portraits of Canadian Literature + Authors was recently shown at the Gardiner Museum, the Toronto Reference Library, and the Harbourfront Centre, all in Toronto.


Mark Raynes Roberts
5-piece optical crystal sculpture inspired by a passage in Margaret Atwood’s Cat’s Eye
9.5’ H x 9’ W x 5’ D

‘Time is not a line but a dimension, like the dimensions of space. If you can bend space you can bend time also, and if you knew enough and could move faster than light you could travel backward in time and exist in two places at once.’ (Margaret Atwood, from Cat’s Eye)

Photograph:
Mark Raynes Roberts