About On Glass


“One morning when I came up to my studio on the top floor of my brownstone in Fort Greene, Brooklyn, I noticed water had spilled on a glass plate the day before. Overnight, the water had dried up and left an edge, creating a shadowy line. I started experimenting with this technique. It took me months to get it right. I mix powder pigment with water to get the feeling of grain, then pour the water on a glass plate a little at the time and float it in the shapes I want. The process takes time. I’ll wait until the water has dried, then add more. The joint edge softens up, and I can continue — watching how the water creates the image before my eyes.”

In this way, Marianne Engberg describes her newest work method. She shapes images with black water, thus creating a sort of photographic negative on a glass plate, which casts shadows on the wall behind it. From each new point of view, and with each time of day, the shadows change, turning softer or harder, multiplying or disappearing. This play of silhouettes – combined with the depth and size of the frames – at times evokes the notion of shadow puppetry.

Though the technique is repeated, the abstract forms and lines made by the water look very diverse. Some seem light and playful, others dynamic and strong. From a distance, the images stand out in clear profile, the shiny surface of the glass contrasting the deep, light-absorbing materiality and darkness of the pigment. Moving closer, the powder particles within each outline become visible.

These works on glass plates are the newest methodic endeavor by Marianne Engberg. With the notion of imprint, shadow and light, they combine elements she has worked with throughout her career as an artist, from pinhole to photosynthetism to her sculptures.