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.

Colin Rennie – Video-Log1: Making a Rainbow

The first in a short series of films by Claire Todd chronicling the development of the National Glass Centre exhibition drawing on Ordered Universe research and the scientific works of Robert Grosseteste. Here Colin Rennie talks about his rainbow sculpture.

 

We are very grateful to Durham’s Institute of Advanced Study for providing resource to enable the making of these films.

Exhibition at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland

Absolutely thrilled to announce an upcoming exhibition at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. Artists Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie, with contributions from MA and PhD students from the Centre will be creating a fantastic array of installations, all based on Grosseteste’s treatises on light, colour and the rainbow. The exhibition will run from October 2017 to February 2018 at the Glass Centre.

Amongst the pieces to be created are pillars of colour casting shadow and reflection, and an exploded rainbow, with sequences of colour moving and blending into each other:

Other pieces will work with medieval imagery and text; all will be exploring Grosseteste’s idea that Colour is Light ‘Color est lux’. Or, as he put in his Commentary on the Genesis Creation story, a constant mediation and mingling of the elements:

Nor should anyone think that the earth could not have been coloured at the beginning, given that colour is light in a diaphanous medium and light was not yet created. In fact, if the creation of things was successive the fire was mixed with this solid earth since the beginning, as it is now; and the incorporation of its light (that is: the fire-light) in the moisture of the earth made the earth coloured. In fact, these elements that we perceive around us are not pure, but mixed with each other, and are named from the element that predominates.
[Hexaemeron 4.7.2: ed. Richard C. Dales and Servus Gieben (Oxford, 1982); translated by C.F.J. Martin as On the Six Days of Creation (Oxford, 1996)]

Flowing from the Through A Glass Darkly collaboration the exhibition also forms part of the City of Sunderland’s bid for UK City of Culture. It really is amazing to see the continued inspiration that Grosseteste’s thinking moves and shapes, and to see different levels of analysis, interpretation and explanation of these texts through glass.

We’ll be creating a Vlog to track the progress of the making – many thanks to Claire Todd – and to whet your appetites for the exhibition, in its various modes: meditative and explosive by turns.

Colour, Light, Glass and Exploding Rainbows

Our Through a Glass Darkly meeting last week gave a considerable amount of food for thought. Catching up with the progress that the Ordered Universe team have made on Grosseteste’s treatises over the last three symposia On the Liberal Arts, On the Generation of SoundsOn the Six DifferencesOn the Sphere and the very first glimpses of On Comets was a reminder, again, of the range, complexity and beauty of his thought. The themes of body and of movement, of the influence of bodies on one another and the interplay of authoritative models and the natural world around him, emerge in these discussions in a powerful and prominent manner. We can see more clearly the three stages through which Grosseteste’s thought moves, from an alchemical, elemental and astrological view of the universe, to one dominated by light and embodied light at that, to the influence of light rays. These modes are not discreet, but overlapping, and are not presented by Grosseteste as contradictory to each other. His condemnation of judicial astrology in the Hexaemeron, for example, is orthodox and Augustinian, astrology cannot take the place of free will and must not be imagined to come to to doing so. At the same time Grosseteste reveals a frustration with technological inadequacies that render accurate measurement of time and space too difficult to make predictive judgment from star-gazing possible. Continue reading

Heaven’s Above! An Interactive Exhibition

Well, it has been about three weeks since the Being Human, National Festival of Humanities activities took place in Durham. Philipp Nothaft’s magnificent lecture on the dating of Easter (just before Advent, appropriately) on the 18th November, which attracted an audience of over 80 and is available in video form, began events. The lecture took place Continue reading