Pembrokeshire-based artist, Ashraf Hanna, has smashed through the competition to become the overall winner of the coveted British Glass Biennale award in his first ever glass exhibition.
Egyptian born and Pembrokeshire based artist Ashraf is a ceramicist who only made the move into glass two years ago after being awarded the Creative Wales Award in 2013 for a project exploring the relationship between ceramics and glass.
Ashraf said: “I really can’t believe I’ve won the British Glass Biennale Prize, it’s so unexpected. I was excited just to be chosen to exhibit. To have won is quite overwhelming and I’m so grateful to the panel for their appreciation of my work and their belief in what I do.”
The Biennale, now in its sixth year, is the highlight of the International Festival of Glass – the most prestigious event in the British glass art calendar and this headline award is recognised as one of the most influential awards in the world of glass.
A total of 77 artists were selected as finalists from more than 200 applicants and their 122 pieces of work will now be exhibited as part of the festival which runs from 28 May to 28 June in Stourbridge’s Glass Quarter.
The exhibition will include Ashraf’s two untitled pieces of kiln formed glass, one charcoal grey, one deep blue, created with the support of fellow artist Heike Brachlow.
All selected artists have been living and working for the last two years in the UK or Northern Ireland but many originate from across the globe, including Costa Rica, South Korea, Israel, Sweden, Germany and Japan as well as glass artists living and working in the historic Stourbridge Glass Quarter.
The pieces embrace a vast range of glassmaking techniques including blown, kiln formed, slumped and engraved glass with pure clean crystal through to opaque vessels and pieces featuring surface painting and glass inclusions.
Submissions range from the miniature to large scale installations; with huge glass hammers, giant spectacles, a glass rat trap, a table set for afternoon tea, painted pictures of Dudley Zoo and a glass nude.
Eleven prizes have been awarded as part of the Biennale and full details of the awards and winners can be found here.
Local flavour came from the only Stourbridge-based artist to be selected for the show, Vic Bamforth, who has a studio at the Ruskin Glass Centre. His two blown and painted graal pieces, Ooz Going to Dudley Zoo and The Strongest Links with a portrait of political activist Mary Macarthur feature colourful local scenes infused with affection and humour.
Elisabeth Johnson, International Festival of Glass Project Director said: “All of our judges had a really tough job on their hands, the quality of the pieces and the range of techniques on show was astounding. Ashraf was a worthy and unanimous winner, his pieces have an elegant simplicity which belie the skills required to create them.
“All of the selected artists have proven themselves, just by virtue of being chosen to exhibit and I’m sure that we will be seeing the evolution of many artistic careers following the awarding of these prizes from our many generous sponsors.”
For more information on the International Festival of Glass, visit the festival website here.