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Ulla Darni: The Art of Light

by Tom Carrier (12/11/08).

Luminous is really the only way to describe the colorful floral chandeliers of artist Ulla Darni. Who could imagine turning essential light into warmth through color and art.

Sandy Sardella has. She is the owner of Pismo Fine Art Glass in Denver, Colo., and has featured Darni’s floral abstract painted chandeliers in her shop for more than 12 years now. As an artist herself, Sardella recognized that the hand-painted chandeliers were more than art, they were a collectible as well. “Many people have more than one,” she says. “They have a lamp or a floral lamp. They just keep adding to their collection.”

Darni’s original work is usually floral or floral abstract. “The inspiration for my own work was literally Dutch paintings of the florals. I always loved those,” she says. But to an observer, it is the brilliant color and realness of the flowers themselves. “I literally use only four colors: red, white, blue, green. Those colors make everything you see.” All of the variations of color are made from only those four, she says.

While it is the color and the floral arrangement that catches an eye first, the technique itself is wondrous, too. It is a reverse painting. Incredible as it seems, each design is painted on the inside of the chandelier, not the outside. It began as an art form probably in the early 1800s and associated mainly with clock faces, icons and some folk art. But by the early 20th century, reverse glass painting of historical, patriotic or rural scenes were the vogue, too.

“The process that Ulla uses is that she has the glass chandelier blown and then it is sand blasted to give it a soft effect. Her painting style is the reverse hand painting technique where she paints the foreground before she paints the background,” Sardella explains. “So it’s a very complicated process. You have to try to envision what it’s going to look like by starting at the front and working to the back. It’s totally opposite to how you would do a painting.”

Complicated or not, the style evokes the simple pleasure of relaxing in a forest glen surrounded by the first color of spring flowers.

Darni is now branching out and painting onto flat panel glass with a light source installed behind the glass panel to evoke the same kind of wondrous light source as her signature chandeliers.

But will Darni transition totally from chandeliers to flat glass artwork? “I don’t think I’ll get completely away from painting the chandeliers,” Darni says, “but I have a feeling that the new work is pushing their way in.”

Pismo Fine Art Glass carries both Darni’s original work and her multiple originals, meaning that additional skilled glass artists also contribute, but they follow a pattern that she creates. Her original work is priced from $5,500 to upwards of $80,000 for a panel that is 6 feet by 10 feet across. The multiple originals are priced from $3,700 to $5,700.

“My love for flowers will never go away. I’m in love with doing it and I hope to stay in love with doing it forever. I can’t see it any other way.”

A video about Ulla Darni’s hand-painted artwork can be viewed here .
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