An Edinburgh-based artist has won the top prize at the 2019 British Glass Biennale for an art installation remembering his first love who died of AIDS in 1995.

Jeff Zimmer created ‘The Fragility of Memory and Material (Personal)’ as a memorial to his first lover, John. It consists of images of their relationship which have been laser-etched onto mobile phone glass screens, just 0.02mm thick.

The glass screens are suspended from long threads so they sway and move with the slightest breeze and are extremely fragile.


The award was announced by an acclaimed body of jurors at the International Festival of Glass in Stourbridge.

Reacting to the news, Jeff told us:

zimmer-jeff-fragility-personal-detail-favourite-photo-shannon-tofts_1_orig“We use our mobile phones to capture, frame and share our memories. As the time since his death continues to pass, the more I realise the enormity of that was lost when he died.”

“These images, laser engraved onto mobile phone glass – a device which is omnipresent in my life but completely unknown to him – are an attempt to keep him present instead of allowing his image to be swiped or scrolled past. They reveal ephemerality of (a) life; and the absurd wish to ensure memories of our time together live on even after all those who shared those memories have also died.”

“Ironically, appropriately and cruelly, the shadow is so much more present than the image itself.”

The piece is part of an ongoing series of works that use glass phone screens to explore transience. It has been acquired for the permanent collection of the European Musem for Modern Glass, in Coburg, Germany.

Jeff originally trained in theatre in Washington, DC before moving to Edinburgh to obtain his Masters in glass painting.

He has works in the permanent collections at the V&A Museum in London, the European Museum for Modern Glass in Germany and the Glasmuseet Ebeltoft in Denmark, among others.

Jeff is described as creating works which “explore ambiguity, morality and mortality in contemporary society and politics, and engage with the material and symbolic properties of glass, as well as the sensual experiences of mystery and light.”

You can find out more about his work by visiting Jeff’s website here or search ‘Jeff Zimmer Glass’ on Facebook.


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