After our summer breaks, Ordered Universe members will be convening for our next symposium. This time we are hosted by Laura Claver at Trinity College Dublin. We’re very much looking forward to being in Ireland, and have a full schedule of texts to examine. Meeting between 17th and 20th September, we’ll be looking at Grosseteste’s treatises On Light (familiar to many!), a final reading of On Comets, and second readings Continue reading
A guest post by Thomas Henderson, 2nd year history undergraduate at Durham University, who has spent this week as an undergrad mentor and tutor at the summer school
After a year’s programme of seminars and a residential Easter school in Durham, the OxNet-Ordered Universe access scheme has reached its climax with this week’s residential summer school at Pembroke College, Oxford. The sixth-formers from Sunderland have joined with others from OxNet schemes in Manchester, Cheshire and London, as well as students from rural India supported by the Karta Institute, for a programme of seminars, lectures and tutorials aimed to provide an insight into the realities of university study.
The entire summer school was kicked off on Sunday evening by Dr Peter Claus, Pembroke’s Access Fellow, and Dr Sigbjørn Sønnesyn, who introduced the themes of the school’s title: ‘Through a Glass Darkly’. His diverting lecture urged the students to embrace the limitations of human knowledge, and its attendant feelings of uncertainty and confusion, as the precursors of investigation and exploration. Taking its cue from the Ordered Universe project, the school is designed to challenge the way the students conceptualise knowledge, and to encourage them to think in a way unbounded by A-level mark-schemes or conventional divisions between disciplines.
At this half-way point, it is clear that the sixth-formers have taken these words to heart. Their eager inquiries about the realities of university life and applications (making the most of their undergraduate mentors) have been matched by affirmations of their intentions to apply to elite universities. A visit from journalists from the BBC Look North served to focus them further. In their academic work, they have been just as engaged and stimulating.
The Ordered Universe strand is focused on colour, light and rainbows. Work on these topics has included two of the project’s signature collaborative reading sessions, of De iride and De luce, led by Sig Sønnesyn, and a workshop on the science of rainbows with Joshua Harvey. These sessions have seen students enthusiastically discussing and disagreeing with each other over (among other things) the nature of rainbows, the problems of perception and whether a sunrise can exist without somebody to observe it. We look forward to what they will produce come Friday!
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.
All at the Ordered Universe Project are very glad to congratulate Dr Gioacchino Curiello who has been awarded a highly sought after British Academy Postdoctoral Fellowship, to be held at Bishop Grosseteste University for the next three years. He will be mentored by Jack Cunningham, who describes the award as, ‘not only enormously important for BGU’s research environment, but hugely important for the world of Grosseteste studies in general. I am very much looking forward to working with Gioacchino. ’
Gioacchino studied for his doctorate at Salerno and and Louvain where he was supervised by Alessandro Conti and Jean-Michel Counet respectively. The BA Fellowship will enable Gioacchino to work on an edition of Grosseteste’s translation and commentary on Pseudo-Dionysius’s 5th-6th Century work, The Divine Names, which will make a significant contribution to our understanding of Grosseteste Corpus Dionysiacum.
We look forward to seeing these results, and to working further with Gioacchio.