Ordered Universe Creative News 1: Colour Columns I, II, and III on tour

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.

Cheeseburn_Grange_-_geograph.org.uk_-_111000.jpg
Alan Fearon / Cheeseburn Grange / CC BY-SA 2.0

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)

 

 

Elemental! Hot Glass, Volcanoes and Bubbles

 

 

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.

Glass Gathering – Creative Experimentation with Hot Glass

Glass Gathering Poster

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.

OxNet & Ordered Universe: Seminars and Easter School in the North-East Hub

One of the wider activities with which the Ordered Universe is engaged is the OxNet access initiative, which seeks to place university learning directly into schools. In the case of the collaboration with Ordered Universe this involves team members bringing the world of medieval science and of the array of disciplines that make up the project to Continue reading

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.

 

Ordered Universe in The Conversation: Colour and Glass

A new piece in The Conversation from the Ordered Universe team, in the persons of Cate Watkinson, Tom McLeish and Giles Gasper, on our creative collaborations over the last two years, and the on-going exhibition at the National Glass Centre, Illuminating Colour. Continue reading

Ordered Universe in Early 2018: Events Update

2018 is set fair to be another busy year for the Ordered Universe team. In addition to submitting our first volume presenting the treatises On the Liberal Arts and On the Generation of Sounds, and the Middle English Seven Liberal Arts, to press, we have a wide range of other events organised. This is just a reminder of those coming up in the first quarter of the year.

The two exhibitions featuring work inspired by the project run over this period. Illuminating Colour, a major exhibition of new work from Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, drawing on Grosseteste’s treatises On Colour and On the Rainbow runs until March 10th. This is a world-class exhibition – do come and see it in situ. And, if you find yourself in the North-East come along to the Dante Exhibition at Palace Green Library in Durham and see, amongst the other treasures, Alexandra Carr’s sculpture of the nested spheres of the medieval universe, and a film installation as well. Alexandra’s work was produced as part of her Leverhulme  Trust funded Artistic Residency at Durham University and Ushaw College focusing on medieval and modern cosmology.

January sees the fifth symposium of the current series, at Pembroke College, University of Oxford. In addition the OxNet course at Southmoor Academy recruits and commences its 6 week seminar series, to be taught to schoolchildren from across the North-East at the National Glass Centre. This involves Richard Bower – on Cosmology, Brian Tanner – on Physics, Joshua Harvey – on Psychology, Nicola Polloni and Kasia Kosior – on Translation, Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie – on Creativity, and Giles Gasper and Tim Farrant on History and Religion. All co-ordinated by Kasia Kosior and the wonderful OxNet team.

February features a number of different activities. Tom McLeish and Giles Gasper are speaking on 7th February, on the modern and medieval cosmos, as part of the Dante Lecture series organised by Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS). Friday 9th February will see the Ordered Universe at the Cambridge e-Luminate Festival of Light for the second year in a row. We’ll be running a series of talks and then show and tell activities over the afternoon and early evening in the Guildhall in Cambridge. And this alongside Ross Ashton and Karen Monid’s new sound and light show. Keeping up the pace, on the 13th February IMEMS is running a day-long workshop on the Scientific Study of Manuscripts, Brian Tanner and Giles Gasper will be talking on Ordered Universe experience of interpreting medieval thought using science and humanities methodologies and approaches. Finally, Jack Cunningham will deliver a lecture in the Ushaw College series in Durham on his discovery of an 18th century life of Grosseteste. ‘ ‘Saving Robert Grosseteste – Fr Philip Perry’s Lost Biography’ takes place on 22nd February, 18.00-19.15

We wrap up the OxNet seminar course in March, and put all focus on the Ordered Universe conference in April – more on that soon, and look forward to the Ordered Universe/OxNet Easter School in Durham – focused on medieval manuscripts, the British Society for the Philosophy of Science conference, and then into the early summer and our Montreal visit, the Kalamazoo International Medieval Congress….and we’re already half way through the year!

De Luce

Illuminating Colour: A Guided Tour

1P5B8805For those that haven’t yet managed to get to the National Glass Centre in Sunderland, we have here a guided tour to the exhibition by Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie. Rosie Reed Gold took the photographs, adding another level of interpretation to the movement from 13th century Latin manuscripts, to editions and translations, to textual analysis (by Continue reading

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!