‘Fire’, Avinash Chandra
At the Pilkington Brothers’ Headquarters in St. Helens (1955-65), designed by Maxwell Fry, sixteen contemporary artists were commissioned to create artwork that demonstrated the range of traditional and innovative techniques used in glass manufacture.
The Indian artist Avinash Chandra (1931-91) created a representation of fire, ‘which lies at the heart of glassmaking’. Measuring thirty-seven feet by nine feet (11.2m x 2.7m) the mural comprises laminates of coloured, clear and wired glass, and plastic, in fluid circular forms. It is back-lit with over one hundred light-bulbs. ‘Fire’ is surprisingly three-dimensional – you don’t really get a good sense of it in the image here – the crackled spheres burst out of their setting, giving a suggestion of the extreme heat and light of a glass furnace.
The piece is amongst a series of large-scale, coloured glass murals undertaken by Chandra for corporate clients during the 1960s; he also created a mural for the Indian High Commission in Lagos (1962) and a Fibreglass mural for the Indian Tea Centre, Oxford Street, London (1964).
‘Fire’ still hangs in its original setting, over the main entrance to the Pilkington tower block (more on this later). For an image of a dapper Chandra in front of his work, see the excellent VADS collection.