Udo Zembok was born in 1951 in Braunschweig, Germany.
From 1972 to 1976 he studied graphic arts and painting in Braunschweig and
Bonn, soon afterwards concentrating solely on working with glass, attracted by
the resonant qualities of light and the way it metamorphoses in glass, the only
material capable of showing the full depth of colour:
“While a student I discovered transparent colour, the colour of watercolours
that gives the illusion of being light. By ‘tearing up the opaque screen’,
in other words the artist’s canvas, and replacing it with glass,
my search for the transparency oflight and colour took shape naturally.”
After living in Amsterdam for two years, he moved to France in 1978, first
to Saint-Menoux near Moulins and then settling in Alsace in 1991.
He met Pascale Zembok in 1998. Today they live in Menton, on the French Riviera, where together they conceive the artistic concepts used in their
Author of a large number of works commissioned for public and privately owned
religious and civil buildings in the Netherlands, Great Britain, the United States,
Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Germany and France, he has developed and applied
new techniques from industry that use very large sheets of coloured glass using pigments, fused together and thermoformed in large kilns.
He explores the possibilities opened up by these innovative techniques that
aim to redefine the relationship that stained-glass art has with architecture by
making it possible to produce large monolithic windows that do not require
a lead structure.
He uses these techniques to create walls that continue to play with the light in
different ways, always trying to create a large area, a wall where the language of colour can express itself to the full, making the
conventional term stained-glass window inappropriate.
Working to create walls freed of the fragmentation of traditional stained-glass
windows, he also creates another effect when light passes through coloured
As early as 1999 his work led him to observe:
“Traditionally, the stained-glass window is revealed by light passing through it.
My current work is aimed at broadening this concept. A second light source
lights it up from in front, resulting in a different interpretation that
complements the first one.
One naturally imposes itself on the viewer and the other calls for active
participation by the viewer.
Held out between these two qualities of light, my walls, made up of several
layers of glass fused together, appear like spaces half way between transparency
and opacity, between matter and void, between stained-glass and
They give off light that opens up an inner space, revealing layers of
superimposed images, which the viewer synthesises into a composition.
Each of these layers is treated to give it texture, or by adding enamels
and grisailles, or by incorporating powdered glass.
Similar to “pâte de verre”, using this technique one can develop a broad
range of aesthetic languages.”
ln parallel, using similar techniques he creates glass objects that are independent
of the structure of a building, producing works such as the series entitled
Hommage à Rothko (2000-2002), Complémentaires 1 (2003), Colourfields
(2005-2008) and Contrastes simultanés (2004-2006). His most recent research features monochrome compositions.
Udo Zembok has been invited to take part in many collective exhibitions
organised in France, Germany, Belgium, the United Kingdom and Poland. A number of personal
exhibitions all over Europe and in the United States have helped raising the profile of his work and research.
He has been awarded several important distinctions, including notably:
the Liliane Bettencourt Prize, Paris, 2001; the Grand Prix Art+Crafts, France, 2003; and the Coburg Glass Prize for contemporary glass
art in Europe, 2006.
The two sides to his work, his monumental commissions and his independent
works lead Udo Zembok to define himself as a sculptor and glass artist. He works
in his own studio when creating his personal and smaller pieces, collaborating
with master stained-glass artists’ studios for his most monumental commissions
that require more space, bigger furnaces and additional qualified people.
Thus, the painter Udo Zembok has moved on from superimposed material
colours that reflect light to coloured light that transmits visible light.
He has become a glass artist who paints with light, making it visible in space and
modulating it by revealing the volume of which the glass work forms a part.
Since-his first commission in 1976 in Amsterdam,
where he tried out his first rudimentary experimental work using coloured
glass between two sheets of wired glass, Udo Zembok has never stopped
experimenting and evolving, using the projects he has completed over the past
thirty years to develop a range of techniques and architectural approaches, all of
which have been developed using the major theme of the experience of colour;
expressed through monolithic glass works, obtained
by superimposing several layers of coloured glass like layers of glaze.
He now experiments with the “third dimension of colour” leading him to work
alongside his commissioned projects for specific buildings on various series of
small independent pieces, two mutually enriching and complementary aspects
of his work that enable him to reveal the optical powers of colour treated in
“These more intimate and personal works are a laboratory of aesthetic and formal
ideas. Technically, I have always refined the processes used to give a profound
meaning to the material. I take on the third dimension not as a sculptor but as
a painter: My field of research remains colour and the expressiveness of colour
as a subject and not as an attribute. The language created by colour
is not conceptual but immediately felt. I remove all reference to a narrative
interpretation by emphasising monochrome and bichrome compositions. The
work is expressed in way the colours encounter each other: It is this that tells
My approach aims to detach the coloured, optical phenomenon from
its material medium in order to get closer to the immaterial origins of colour.”
ln his sculptures, Udo Zembok attaches great importance to using layers of
glass. By arranging colour inside the material itself, between the fused layers
of glass, colour and light produce a phenomenon of resonance that emanates
from his sculptures.
What’s more, Udo Zembok’s colours are produced by placing several colours
togethelr.To obtain a red for example he superimposes purple, orange and
mauve in the same way a painter would do with glazes.
ln Udo Zembok’s work, in a small piece there is always the essence of a large
one. Conversely, by moving closer to the material in his monumental glass works
and fragmenting them visually to discover the mystery of their depth, the viewer
can make out a number of potential smaller pieces.