Illuminating Colour – Through a Glass Darkly

Film-maker Alan Fetiman followed and documented the Through a Glass Darkly collaboration between Ordered Universe and the National Glass Centre culminating in the exhibition of new work by Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie Illuminating Colour. The documentary is complete and makes for a fascinating insight into the different perspectives of the participants, and how the the various aspects of the programme came together. Working with Alan as part of the team has added an exciting dynamic to the collaboration, and another,  different, response to Grosseteste’s scientific reflections. We’re very grateful to Durham University for providing funding for the making of the film, and present it here as a chronicle of collaboration, and another segment of the kaleidoscopic approach of the Ordered Universe research project.

Through A Glass Darkly – Documentary from Alan Fentiman on Vimeo.


Illuminating Colour – Now Open

Last night saw the launch of Illuminating Colour, a new exhibition from Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. The exhibition, as readers of this site will know, grew from a collaborative initiative with the Ordered Universe project, Through a Glass Darkly. The exhibition emerged from a series of meetings, collaborative readings, knowledge exchange sessions (learning about glass, living medieval manuscripts), glass-making, planning and exhibits within the Being Human Festival, all of which took place over the last 18 months. Students and staff from Durham, Sunderland and Oxford, as well as the international collaborators from Ordered Universe, have all taken part and contributed, Artists Alexandra Carr, Ross Ashton, Alan Fentiman and Rosie Reed Gold have also been involved from their different media expertise.

The centrepiece of the exhibition is Cate and Colin’s work. Taking Grosseteste’s treatises On Colour and On the Rainbow as the principal inspiration, alongside his thinking on light and other meteorological phenomena, the works have come together over the last year. It has been an enormous privilege to watch this happen, and, at some level, to have been involved. The imagination, craft, skill depth of experience and curiosity to experiment are both mind-blowing and inspiring. The exhibition dwells profoundly on Grosseteste’s statement that ‘Light is colour embodied in a transparent medium’. The end of that treatise, On Colour, invokes the fact that those who are especially skilled can manipulate the medium to make whatever colour they like. This description is applied justly to Cate and Colin, and the pieces they have created.

Illuminating Colour finishes on 11th March 2018, so there is plenty of time to come and visit, and what a reason (if any were needed), to come to the North-East. This is also only the beginning of the collaboration, so stay tuned for further cross-disciplinary exploration of the universe in which we live and how we explain and perceive it. The exhibition is supported by the University of Sunderland, the National Glass Centre, the Arts and Humanities Research Council, Durham University and the Ordered Universe project. For those that couldn’t be there last night – some images and a periscope tour of the exhibits – but do come and see the real things!



Colour is Light: Through a Glass Darkly

Another memorable day at the National Glass Centre. Giles, Brian and Alex Carr, together with David Lowther (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow at Durham, working on the history of zoology in the modern period, especially of collections and birds), went over to Sunderland to see the preparations for the Grosseteste-inspired exhibition opening in October.  We also went to complete the filming for the documentary element of Through a Glass Darkly with Alan Fentiman. We had a fantastic time – Colin Rennie made one of his rainbow strands for us. As you’ll see from the clip below, this was quite extraordinary, culminating in molten glass being stretched and spun, changing colour as it cooled.


The final products of rainbow sculpture, some 20 or so, will be mounted in an steel frame, each strand moving seamlessly from one colour to another.


Cate Watkinson took us through her installations, with models of the larger pieces of glass in sequences. We experimented with torchlight and one of the circular moulds of blue glass, creating internal and external shadows, reflection and patterns at the edge of diaphanous media (as Grosseteste might have observed). Cate is working too on embedding Grosseteste’s treatise De colore (or parts of it) into glass, as well as the larger colour pieces and the movement from black to white.

The exhibition opens on 20th October – we’ll have more updates on progress and activities around the exhibition. For now, we can safely reveal that it will be amazing.


Tumblr Account for Through a Glass Darkly


Through a Glass Darkly has its own Tumblr site for posts and images, from the Creative Collaboration Seminars, other meetings and from participants as inspiration takes them. Set up by Alan Fentiman (to whom the project is very grateful), the site incorporates an interactive record of the collaborations that from the project.  We hope that you enjoy the pictures, films and visualisations!

Through a Glass Darkly: Making with Glass

The second creative collaboration seminars for the Through a Glass Darkly project took place on 31st August, with a return visit for Ordered Universe team members to the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. This time, however, it was the turn of the scientists and mediaevalists to try their hands at working with glass. We did so, with a fantastic morning of sand-casting, led by Colin Rennie and Cate Watkinson. After setting a frame in red sand, you pick a mould or model a free-style structure (we had examples from geometric shapes, to fish, a tobacco pipe, a jelly-fish, shells), dust in some colour derived from silicates (being extremely careful not to breathe them in), and then add molten glass at over 1000˚centigrade. Continue reading

Moulding Glass

The second in a series of creative collaboration seminars between the Ordered Universe project and the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, takes place tomorrow. Teams from both units will meet, this time the OU participants will be introduced to sand-casting and glass-cutting. Photographs and video of the results will be posted, so watch this space! Continue reading

Grosseteste in Glass

The first of the creative collaboration seminars between the Ordered Universe project and the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, was a great success. The project sparked a great deal of interest across a wide spectrum of fields and has continued to provoke and stimulate thought. The experience of watching glass architecture being created in front of us (after a lot of careful and thoughtful preparation, was amazing.

The whole day was a wonderful advert for cross-fertilising ideas, encountering different media, different perspectives and allowing them to breathe additional life into texts from the thirteenth century. After presentations on Grosseteste himself by Giles, on colour as embodied light by Hannah, and the artistic perspectives of Colin and Cate, and the glass display by Colin, we split into groups. This was for close reading of various of Grosseteste’s texts: from the De artibus liberlibus, to the De luceDe colore and De iride. Students at all stages in the National Glass Centre programmes: BA, MA and PhD, as well as post-doctoral and full-time staff grappled with Grosseteste and the strange, beautiful geometric landscape he creates. It was heart-warming from the medieval side of things to see these texts, having been made accessible, being used to inspire creative projects; and similarly from the science perspective. Gathering together ideas in the final plenary session, we could see just how much work had been done to think through the texts and how the themes, especially of light and colour, but also sound, movement, body and material, could be explored in all kinds of different directions.

The next seminar takes place at the end of August, and, at Cate and Colin’s suggestion, this will involve the Ordered Universe team getting to grips with the material side of things, and trying out some glass-cutting, and perhaps, blowing. This will be both an enormous joy, but has a very serious purpose as well. As Colin put it knowledge transfer has different currencies, and for exchange to happen fully, these currencies have to be acknowledged and experienced. So, to elucidate texts with glass artists is only half of the process; for them to elucidate their practice and thought with medievalists and scientists forms the other. We all remain experts in our own fields, but experience of other ways of thinking through the same issues is vital.

Through a Glass Darkly, will create a number of pieces of glass artwork and architecture; it involves the collaboration of Alexandra Carr and Ross Ashton as well.  It will also feature the film-work of Alan Fentiman. Part documentary of the collaboration and part meditation on the themes of colour and light within Grosseteste’s work, the film will be created over the summer and autumn, allowing a different medium to be explored, in which our collective work can be embodied.

Ordered Universe: Creative Collaborations – Through a Glass Darkly

The Ordered Universe is delighted to announce a creative collaboration with the University of Sunderland, National Glass Centre. Members of the Ordered Universe will be working with Dr Cate Watkinsonand Dr Colin Rennie, of the Department of Glass and Ceramics, and their undergraduate and postgraduate students. Cate runs her own glass studio, Watkinson Glass Associates, with commissions ranging from decorative panel installations to major public sculptures. Continue reading

Ordered Universe and Being Human – On Film

We are delighted with the new short film of the Ordered Universe team in action at last year’s DSC_0682Festival of Humanities Ordered Universe PosterBeing Human, Festival of Humanities. Our ‘Dark Ages to Dark Matter‘ day took the participants through the research experience of encountering Grosseteste, piecing together his chronology, crucially sharing a collaborative reading experience, re-creating some of the experiments he recounts, and overlaying the whole with modern ideas, from science and humanities bases. Continue reading