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 Embodiedexhibition 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 Colourexhibition (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)
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.
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 intothe 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.
May is the season for the Annual International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo. This year, the 53rd congress, saw the Ordered Universe present two panel sessions on Structures of Order in Medieval Science. The first, Experience and Authorities featured Nicola Polloni (Durham but imminently the Continue reading →
One of the main challenges for all who study the highly variegated output produced by Robert Grosseteste over the course of his lifetime is how, if at all, his works within highly disparate disciplines may be harmonized into a coherent whole. This challenge was embodied in practice from April 3rd through 6th, when scholars from a wide range of disciplines descended on Pembroke College, Oxford, for the conference ‘Science, Imagination, and Wonder: Robert Grosseteste and his Legacy’. In order to make this an occasion for mutually fruitful exchange across – rather than merely within – the boundaries segmenting academia, Continue reading →
With a day to go before the Ordered Universe conference on Science, Imagination and Wonder, we’re very much looking forward to the public lecture to be given by Professor Jim Al-Khalili, On the Shoulders of Giants: Optics before Newton, in the Weston Library, from 17.15 on Continue reading →
Yesterday, February 9th, was the opening of the 6th Cambridge e-Luminate Festival. Members of the Ordered Universe team were delighted to be asked to give an afternoon of talks, demonstrations and interactive activities as part of the opening events. Seb Falk (Cambridge), Jack Cunningham (Bishop Grosseteste University), Josh Harvey (Oxford), Giles Gasper (Durham), and Alexandra Carr (Multi-Media Sculptor), Continue reading →