Layering thin panes of hand-cut glass, self-taught artist Ben Young creates gorgeous oceanic scenes inspired by the world-class beaches of Australia. Each one manages to capture the look of sunlight shining through the depths, with concrete standing in for the rocky shores. Sailboats, palm trees, lighthouses, and human figures made of bronze give each sculpture a sense of movement and scale.
Born in Australia and currently based in Mount Maunganui, New Zealand, Young draws inspiration from the scenery he’s been surrounded by his whole life. A boat builder by profession and surfer in his spare time, he says he’s driven by an enduring love for the ocean and a fascination with the relationship between humans and nature.
Each piece starts as a drawing, then a miniature three-dimensional model. Young creates templates and makes custom jigs to guide his glass cutting process with a glazier’s hand tool. The glass he uses is clear, but since light passes through multiple layers, it takes on shades of blue that grow deeper as the layers get thicker. That gives each sculpture the nuance that enhances their sense of realism, while the solidity of the concrete provides an interesting contrast. Each bronze piece begins as a hand-carved wax sculpture before it’s cast in metal.
“I do a lot of thinking before I even start to draw or cut,” Young says. “I work with 2D shapes and have to figure out how to translate that into a 3D finished piece. Sometimes my starting point changes dramatically as I have to find a way to layer the glass to create certain shapes.”
“The way I use the glass enables me to portray so many different elements of my conceptual ideas,” he adds. “Lighting plays a large part in the presentation of my pieces. When lit from beneath, the light reflects and gives off the illusion of the piece being brought to life. I hope viewers might imagine the work as something ‘living’ that creates the illusion of space, movement, depth, and sense of spatial being. I like to play with the irony between the glass being a solid material and how I can form such natural and organic shapes.”
The sculptures, which have names like “Watchful Gaze,” “Contemplation,” and “Sea of Separation,” are more than just pretty depictions of oceanic scenes. They explore an array of emotional themes that become apparent when you look beyond the (literal and metaphorical) surface, like loneliness, isolation, and the precariousness of human life on Earth. Young’s latest collection, “Sentiments of the Sublime,” aims to forge connections between the artist and the viewer “in a moment of awe and nostalgia.”
Young has previously exhibited alongside well-known glass artists around the world, and he’s currently represented by galleries in Melbourne, Auckland, Singapore, and New York. His pieces are in demand and sell as fast as he can produce them, but if you’re really in love with them and want a way to bring one into your home, he also sells original prints for $180 to $250 USD. He’s also available for collaborations and commissioned pieces, if you’d like to see him bring an idea of your own to life.