In the development of glass discipline in the second half of the 20th century, production was diversified into designer production within the glass industry, into the studio design of unique works and implementation in architectural spaces. An important role was earned by the geometric-abstract lines of forms of ground glass characteristic with optical ground glass, highlighting the natural characteristics of glass such as refraction, clarity and color. Later, it enforces a more lyrical alternative with softer glass mass modeling along with metallurgically-shaped molten glass.
In the 1950s glass work concentrated on designing dining glass and the production of useful and decorative objects. Karol Hološko worked as a designer in the Lednické Rovne glassworks, who in applied glass designs approached it with the application of pure and sober lines as well as systematically working to cultivate beverage and dining sets. He inspired domestic traditions (morphology, methods of decoration) and applied, in the implementation of new technological processes, blown thin-walled glass (shaping legs into chips and trailed feet). Jaroslav Taraba created a new period of glassworks production again. He developed the application for the production processes of blown glass based on the principle of an open mold and non-blown glass (drawn foot, laser decor), which for a long time demonstrated an artistic-craft performance at the level of an applied range.
A completely different position was represented by the free glass art of Ľubomír Blecha, based on the fundamental shape of the glass bubbles of the blown blowpipe. He created atypically shaped free objects with a bold scale and external deformation, blown with a free hand to wire forms with an inner texture (riveting). He later diversified dimensional thin-walled objects from blown crystal glass with dramatic punctures or wire notches. He also created objects from glass drawn rods from thermoforming – spatial nodes reflecting yourself and the surroundings. He expanded the morphology of blown sculptures associated with figurative shapes. Subsequently, in regards to sculptures he concentrated on the problem of expressing movement, perceiving in rhythm and the multiplication of glass reflections through the reproduction of fundamental elements in a reduced range of colors (clear and smoky glass). In the 1980s he produced solid material sculptures. The pulsating movement composition of drawn and twisted glass assemblies was determined by the spectator’s touch or the fictitious movement of luminous flux passing through the sculpture. In terms of using traditional techniques for blown and drawn free glasswork production, Blecha’s creation stands in opposition to the tendencies of visually cut glass presented by the work of Václav Cigler and his followers.
The philosophy of Václav Cigler, who founded the Department of Glass in Architecture at the Academy of Fine Arts in Bratislava (1965 – 1979), influenced the work of many Slovak glass designers. He created his own concept of education with an ethical dimension, giving rise to the concept known as the “Cigler School”. The programmed teaching studio was divided between free and applied work. It resulted in monumentally decorative work for architecture, the design of beverage sets for mass production, the design of functional objects for interiors and exteriors as well as jewelry. The new function of glass as a dominant element of an architectural concept was supported by the use of optical glass with specific physical and optical properties. Clear geometric shapes enriched by a colorful spectrum was achieved by a full-scale cut surface, cut into concave and convex shapes, bringing together the edges and overlapping surfaces. Ideologically, Cigler professed himself to the Neo-Constructivism and the New Sensibility movement. He enriched glass production with the geometrical abstraction of the Constructivist movement. He was fascinated by space, light, kinetics, virtual space and mainly the conceptual level of works. His land-art objects, architectural, spatial and light installations actually incorporated premeditated optical and kinetic properties.
A sculpture “minimalism” program was developed in Cigler’s studio in transparent glass material by Jozef Vachálek, Ľubomír Artz, Milan Pulík, Ivan Polák, Askold Žáčko, Josef Tomečko, Štěpán Pala, Karol Drexler, Michal Gavula, Eva Potfajová-Ilkovičová, Milan Gašpar and Juraj Opršal. These and others worked with optical prismatic cutting, kinetic effects or the compositional use of light refraction, which reached an apparent visual quality. Younger graduates of the glass studio continued with a geometric creative language (Miloš Balgavý, Vladimír Prihel, Ivan Žákovič and Oliver Leššo).
After Cigler, Askold Žáčko took over heading the studio and enriched the original concept with new elements – lyrical, poetic and metaphorical action, dynamic shape and color. The mastery of optical glass was replaced by playfulness and the intuitive imagination of fused, annealed and blown glass. In the proportions of volumes and in the combination of blown and ground glass, we can feel Žáček’s relationship towards shaping crystal glass blocks, which combine “robustness” and transparency with an expressive and dramatic expression.
With the advent of postmodern aesthetics his work was significantly “baroqized”. He put an emphasis on figurative imagery balanced with a compositional sense towards the plasticizing shape manifestation of expressive surreal poetics and color effect. Juraj Gavula, whose work is imbued with sculptural expression, developed Cigler’s “experimental workshop” imprint in the glass studio (1990 – 2007). He suggestively and amusingly combined various materials (stone, metal) with glass and its optical characteristics just completing the internal works’ construction. The concept of creation underlines the timeless values of sculpture works processing eternal, archetypal themes and motifs. He concentrated on a monumentally elemental form, expressed through metaphors and symbols. The work of Juraj Opršal is dominated by an ambition to compose, organize and create space. The objects in the form of a sort of metaphysical meta-architectures are composed of primary elements, which can be set into kinetical motion. He raises vertical, horizontal and triangular formations, often in combination with other materials, on horizontal (matte or mirror) pads through moderate gestures. Pavol Hlôška similarly reinterpreted optical geometry. His works excel in the mutual symbiosis of a sophisticated compositional structure and the precision of details. In the objects there is a sophisticated method combining color expression, optical illusions, games with light reflections and reflexes achieved using lustrous and metal foils. Most often he varies the shape of a triangle, pyramid and disk glued from several segments and completed by a vacuum gold or silver metallic paint. The resulting structure carries in itself the visual impression of fractal geometry with color light transformations. The work of Ján Zoričák is characterized by perfectly cut shapes of prisms, blocks, cubes and pyramids with the internal structure formed by gluing several elements, to which are applied color and metallic luster. It counts on the element of chance balanced by the precise shape of ground forms with prismatic refraction and mirroring multiplexing internal structures. Often he also applies a combination of stone and glass with respect to transparency and opacity. Milan Opalka represents a traditional glassworks line of ground glass with the optical characteristics of enamel. Works of a chamber and poetic introverted nature capture stories full of emotional lyrical elements. A different position is represented by a cycle of works inspired by the principles of ready-made. He also addresses the design of drinking glasses, which feature experimental morphology and thicker walls with a cut edge. Viktor Oravec focuses on the environmental formation from optical and plate glass, lighting realization, interior design and exterior projects. He shifts the traditional perception of glass sculpture towards minimalistically-tuned objects and flat glass installations. A broad range of creation, opened to new media, is a particular benefit in a strong conceptual hub. The work of Ján Mýtna falls within the range and quality spectrum of classic glass sculptures and installations. He initially created decoratively, geometrically designed sculptures from cut flat and optical glass, interested in an interior architecturally constructed shape and dynamic effect enhancing a kinetic installation. He gradually shifted to experimental objects, to artificial environments applying a mix medial persiflage of light, movement, character and waste materials. In the 1990s he preferred the conceptually perception of creation with an ambiguous content that reflected social and civilizational issues (environmental issues and globalization) in the context of postmodern ambiguity, irony and combined elements of high and low art. The glassing twins Zora Palová – Štěpán Pala formed a creative tandem in the 1970s, but gradually their paths and interests specified. Štěpán Pala focused on the development of a rational spatial concept based on the principle of mathematical formulations and fractal geometry. His authorial vision consisted of an exact combinatoric shifting of the same geometric elements and modules based on constructivist and conceptual practices. Meanwhile, in the execution of monumental works for architecture and intimate objects from optical and flat glass with geometrically constructed shapes with lenticular cutting, he emphasized the aesthetic value of the material. Since the late 1980s Zora Palová has been devoted to examining the possibility of using molten plastic technology in an expressive and emotional account with the dramatic geometry of molten sculptural works. She reveals the secret and passionate inner world of molten glass, modeling a sculptural gesture, introducing an intense color to it, emotional content, metaphors and iconic allusions. Eva Fišerová similarly built her artistic style, in the elements of asymmetry, chance, rotation volumes, dynamic contrast and the internal structure of molten glass. The compositions perceived by the sculptor are characterized by a dramatically shaped diction, deep cuts, empty and full forms, a diagonally composed shape, the contrast of smooth and rough surfaces and an emphasis on color.
Palo Macho and Ivica Markovičová are stylistically dedicated to painting on glass. Macho combines painting techniques with the annealing glass technique or thermoforming. He shifts from more abstract structural motifs through geometric to figurative themes. He works with the transparency of glass as well as applied color and light. This particularity is represented by glass graphics created by combining paintings, platinum drawings and etching on a glass pane. Markovičová works primarily with a glass-plate annealing technique in combination with metal. Her painting shifts through a more abstract expressive plane of random merging colors and the overlapping of layers, appearing in her checkered, spiral, wavy and circular decorative motifs.
In the glass medium in the 1990s there was a period of bold experiments and the finding of new contexts in accordance with the complex situation in fine arts characterized by the convergence of various art media. Free object creation and installations, emphasizing the importance of space perception predominated in the glass art studio. Although some of the graduates like Vladimír Zbyňovský, Martin Masarovič and František Csandal continued in the more traditional lines of visually impressive glass sculpture by applying an emotional lyricism, comprehensively reacting to the material nature of glass in combination with other materials (mainly stone) and concentrated on the sensitive application of color. The works of Slavomír Bachorík are multi-layered, full of multiple meanings with rich iconography and elements drawing from mysticism, numerology and the Bible. The distinctive groups were objects based on surreal and Neo-Dadaistic principles with the central artistic elements being fragments of animal bodies. Minimalist and neo-conceptual approaches were also intertwined in the work of Peter Ondrušek, inclined toward postminimalistic morphology and working with linguistic elements based on an intellectual, theoretical and analytical approach, and reduced visual vocabulary. At the end of the 1990s, a strong ideological movement of neo-constructivism, technicism, neo-conceptual strategies, kinetic and interactive art, pop art and recycling marked creation in the glass studio. The creations of young glassmakers reflected current events in the world, dealt with the questions of the perception of time and space, the meaning of words and text and used much less the optical properties of glass. Patrik Kovačovský, Peter Miko, Palo Macho, Matej Gavula, Peter Ondrušek, Martin Múranica constructed objects, spatial and light installations using technical, sheet and fused glass combined with other materials (metal, stone, concrete), while glass was applied as one of several equivalent materials. They also discovered unconventional materials such as acrylic, rubber, motor oil and industrial waste. Their works are characterized by cold, disembodied, rational poetics with the application of poststructuralist philosophy strategies. Currently, their work represents distinctive stylistic concepts.
Currently glass design is being produced by the only glass factory in Slovakia – RONA a.s. in Lednické Rovne. Ivan Polák and Ladislav Pagáč were brought through as designers there. Ladislav Pagáč in the 1980s enriched a range of products with unusually shaped designed dining elements of austere geometric forms, rhythmized to the level of a mathematical model and also creatively applying the diagonal orientations of the axis of containers. The designs of Jozef Kolembus, in comparison, covered a wide variety of shapes including the lyrical lines of a jar up to strict geometric forms. Juraj Steinhübel used the light-optical properties of materials in beverage sets with simple primary forms. In the 1990s Peter Šipoš brought classical morphology inspired by a vintage style, such as a medieval glass with a stick, Renaissance Venetian wing glasses or a robust Baroque cup. For most beverage sets he applied the more massive use of glass materials and abundant colorful finish, others with more subtle morphology from clear glass. Peter Miko applied a rich color design to applied objects. The results of the skillful work with metallurgical glass engineering are bizarre shapes with many expressive curves and protrusions. Patrik Illo belongs to the youngest generation of designers whose glass productions bears a seal of originality. During his studies he created a specific morphology of experimental drinking glass with organic curves, playful postmodern shapes, colorful stickers in the shapes of snails or spines. Through the transformation of historic morphology and the use of traditional glassmaking techniques he searched for his own creative expression independent of functional and semantic detail. Since the end of the 1990s he has been working with clear colorless blown glass, dominated by the simple, functional shape and optical properties of clear glass. In addition to proposals for industrial machine production he concentrates on the design of hand-blown drinking glasses. His contribution is the discovery of new shapes with an emphasis on home tradition and the history of glassmaking techniques.