Following the successful collaborative seminar between Ordered Universe, the National Glass Centre and the Department of Earth Sciences at Durham, we are holding another one (programme is in the link). This time the home team is Durham, and we’ll exploring more about Volcanology, the questions that Volcanologists ask and why. After a lunch Continue reading
Some more reflections and pictures from our creative collaborative seminar at the Continue reading
A third item of news from the creative strands connected to the Ordered Universe project is that Alexandra Carr’s beautiful sculpture of the medieval cosmos, Empyrean, produced during her Leverhulme Artist in Residence at Durham University (2017) with Giles Gasper, is on display at Ushaw College. This is entirely appropriate given that it was at Ushaw that the piece was conceived and took shape. It formed part of the Dante Continue reading
In more news from the Ordered Universe creative arts strands, we’re delighted that Colin Rennie’s sculpture Magnitudo, having been entered into the Toyama International Glass Prize, a Triennial open competition for glass art. Created for the Illuminating Colour exhibition at the National Glass Centre (2017-18), Magnitudo also featured in the Light Embodied exhibition at Pembroke College, University of Oxford, April-June 2018.
The sculpture is now in Japan, as one of 57 pieces selected for the final judging show in September. There were over a thousand entries globally. That a piece of glass sculpture should be inspired by Grosseteste’s 13th century writings on colour, light and the rainbow, and the modern science that resulted from its investigation, is a wonderful story. Let’s hope the judges think similarly. We’ll let you know how the competition proceeds.
Colin has also entered Concurrentes to the annual New Glass Review at the Corning Museum of Glass, upstate New York. Another journey across the seas awaits perhaps.We all wish Colin the very best of luck!
Some news to share on further developments in the creative arts projects connected to the Ordered Universe. This, the first news-post of three, features Cate Watkinson’s Colour Columns exhibited as part of the Illuminating Colour exhibition (2017-18) at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. Smaller versions were exhibited at the Light Embodied exhibition at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. Now three of the four original columns are now installed in the Cheesburn Grange sculpture garden, near Ponteland, to the north-west of Newcastle.
Cheeseburn Grange, originally a grange farm of Hexham Abbey, now owned by the Riddell family, gives support to creative projects and exhibits sculpture in the gardens. These are open to public on selected weekends, and by appointment. Colour Columns will be in place for the year, and Cate will be measuring the effect of the light embodied by the columns over the course of the year. If you’re in the North-East, check out the website for the best times to visit: it will be worth it.
What Robert Grosseteste states in his treatise On Colour, at its conclusion recalls the skill of the artist in knowing the material, knowing the effect of light, and knowing how to manipulate both. Colour Columns at Cheeseburn will repay a visit, most certainly
What is understood in this way about the essence of colours and their multiplication, becomes apparent not only by reason but also by experience to those who thoroughly understand the depth of the principles of natural science and optics. And this is because they know how to make the diaphanous medium either pure or impure, so that in it they can receive bright light, or dim if they prefer, and through the shape formed in the diaphanous medium itself they can make scarce light, or increase that same light at will; and so through skilful manipulation they can show visibly, as they wish, all kinds of colour.
Grosseteste, De colore, ed. and trans, Dinkova-Bruun et al. (2013)
Just over a week ago Ordered Universe (28th June) members joined colleagues from the National Glass Centre, most of whom are part of the project, but it was brilliant to meet new colleagues as well including Joanne Mitchell. And we were joined by other colleagues from Durham University’s Department of Earth Sciences, Drs Ed Lllewellin and Fabian Wadsworth, specialists in volcanology. The meeting opened with a collaborative reading of Grosseteste’s beautiful treatise On the Impressions of the Elements, in which the question of heat and the nature of bubbles are investigated. These were all pertinent themes and phenomena for the gathering, and a lively conversation took place, showing again how stimulating these gem-like treatises from the early thirteenth century are, 900 years later.
We then enjoyed our first introduction to the hot glass studio, with a fabulous rendition of Grosseteste’s treatise in glass by Colin Rennie. Bubbles blown, and attached, and the piece came together before our eyes, in all the wonderful shimmering, changing colours of the glass as it cooled. And we had our own try and drizzling molten glass onto damped paper to create a variety of effects…abstract, pungent, a lot of fun, and a very interesting experience in learning to manipulate the medium (which you have to do fast!).
Lunchtime, a different location, and a different sequence of talks – catching up on the various lines of shred interest and the legacy of previous work and exhibitions, a paper by Josh Harvey on his work on material perception with material from medieval Norwegian polychrome sculpture provided by Kaja Kollandsrud, and then a demonstration by Fabian and Ed of volcanoes in action. Not with lava but with syrup and a cherry favoured carbonated drink. Glass and its properties, naturally in volcanoes and as worked in the studio, hot or cold, provoked a long discussion: the similarities and differences in the scientific and artistic approach to the medium were striking, and a lovely example of knowledge exchange.
Then came our time in the hot shop again, to make paper-weights. This time, we had the experience of holding the glass, shaping it and learning to hold the equipment in the right place (because metal conducts heat…easy to forget in, well, the heat of the moment), The feeling of the heat coming off the ball of viscous, moving, radiating material which we were attempting to mould was extraordinary. And it made Cate and Colin’s skill all the more awe-inspiring. The results were kiln-cooled, and look very passable – all credit to our teachers and guides. We then watched Colin make a first draft of a piece of glassware inspired by medieval models…more on that to come.
A super day, one to treasure, and full of possibilities for future collaboration. We’re very grateful indeed to Claire Todd for organising, and to Cate, Colin and all at the National Glass Centre for sharing their experience and time. And can’t wait to see Grosseteste in glass, again.
Experimenting with hot glass is probably best to be tried in the company, and with the guidance, of experts. That being the case, it would be difficult to find more expert guides for this particular activity than those at the National Glass Centre. So it is the best of all possible worlds in which the NGC and Hot Glass Studio, University of Sunderland, have organised a research and experience day, in which Ordered Universe members will be taking part. We’ll be reading one of more recent editions and translations, that of the treatise On the Impressions of the Elements, which is all about bubble formation in water and the action of heat. Quite appropriate, then, for a day devoted to hot glass experiments.
That done we’ll move to experimenting with and experiencing what it is to work with hot glass (a step-up from our last knowledge exchange session which involved sand-casting). Learning not only how glass works, but how those experienced at manipulating it explain their craft and process, is essential to the effort of reconstructing how things were done, or conceived in the past. And, there are also scientific dimensions – we’re going to be joined by vulcanologists from Durham University’s Earth Sciences Department, and thinking about the ways in which glass-blowing and natural glass production in lava might mutually inform.
We’ll be having a catch-up as well on the various projects going forward with our colleagues at the NGC; publications, new collaborative working, and potentially, a range of wine-glasses. You never quite know what to expect at these meetings, and that’s all part of the fun! We’re enormously grateful to Cate Watkinson, Colin Rennie, and Claire Todd for organising, hosting and supervising (!) the day, and will report on what emerges (conceptually and in glass).
Note: Image of the 1954 Kilauea eruption from the U.S. Geological Survey.
For those unable to see the real thing, two videos below of Northern Lights, the first a view to the Heart of Yorkshire, the second the view of the show onto the nave ceiling. Obviously please note that these are not the professional videos that the Projection Studio will release, and the filming was not the work of the Projection Studio: as soon as the official versions are available we will put them onto the website. However, we hope that these films below will allow you to enjoy the wonderful invention, technical mastery and immersive nature of the projection.
Designed by Ross Ashton and Karen Monid, Northern Lights at York Minster was an outstanding success. Playing to the public on the 16th and 17th June, 2018, and to a fundraising event on the 15th organised by the York Minster fund, the projection is a major feature in a campaign to preserve and protect the world-famous medieval glass of the Minster. Northern Lights dazzled the audience, showcasing the medieval glass-work and the medieval heritage of York, curating a journey from creation stories, nature and the cosmos, and thinking about the afterlife, hell and the apocalypse to the beauty of contemplation. A truly immersive experience, in the magnificent setting Continue reading
Earlier this month members of the Ordered Universe team, Joshua Harvey and Alexandra Carr gave papers at the Media Lab at MIT, Cambridge Massachusetts. Joshua’s paper, ‘Medieval and modern visual alchemy: material and digital ‘transmutation’ of chromatic statistics’, in which he presented his recent work on the potential of manipulating distributions of chromatic statistics within an image, to transfer material appearances. His research has significant potential applications in the fields of image processing and computer graphics and has been informed by his investigations into the medieval imitation gold material featured in polychrome sculpture.
Alexandra’s paper, ‘The body of colour: a medieval perspective’, outlined her artistic outputs to her collaboration with the Ordered Universe project so far, with a particular focus on colour. Setting aside the current rationalistic empirical paradigm, she proposed the notion of colour as a physical body through investigating the phenomena of light and the concept of darkness. Seeing the world through the eyes of a natural philosopher allows space for the psychological, metaphysical and philosophical implications of the theory of colour, which has led to new scientific theories. The artistic investigation, thoughts and outputs of medieval treatises demonstrates that a revisiting of ideas from antiquity and an uninhibited re-questioning of phenomena is conducive to new methodologies and theories.
The talks provided a great opportunity for further lines of investigation both practically and philosophically, with colour perception and impossible colours taking centre stage. Dr Andreas Mershin of The Centre for Bits and Atoms very kindly showed everyone around the lab, wowed everyone with a laser capable of allowing you to see colours you have never seen before, and described the work he is carrying out on olfactory and visual perception. Joshua, Alexandra and Andreas plan to meet shortly to continue sharing ideas and keeping the dialogue going. We’ll keep you posted as to where this leads.