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.


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.


Through a Glass Darkly: Creative Collaborative Seminar

The next in the Ordered Universe Through a Glass Darkly Creative Collaboration Seminars with the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, takes place next week, on January 10th. This time we will be in Durham, at the Department of History and, to top the day off, at the Palace Green Library learning centre to be introduced to some medieval manuscripts. The seminar will review work from the Ordered Universe and present, in outline, the treatises On the Sphere – De spheraOn the Six Differences – De sex differentiis and Continue reading

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

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.

Grosseteste in Glass

The first of the Creative Collaboration Seminars took place on Tuesday 31st May at the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland. Led by Cate Watkinson and Colin Rennie, with Giles and Hannah, members of the Ordered Universe team and staff and students from the National Glass Centre had a fabulous day exploring Grosseteste’s texts on colour, light, sound and the rainbow. We developed a wide range of creative responses to Continue reading

Through a Glass Darkly – Creative Collaboration Seminar 1

Grosseteste Poster 1

Next Tuesday, 31st May, sees the first activity in the collaboration between the Ordered Universe and the National Glass Centre, University of Sunderland, Through a Glass Darkly. We have a day of creative collaboration across a wide range of media. Brian, Giles, Hannah, Clive, Josh, Ana Dias – a PhD student in medieval manuscript illumination at Durham, with Ross Ashton, Alexandra Carr and Alan Fentiman, will explore Grosseteste’s scientific opuscula with Cate Watkinson, Colin Rennie and undergraduate and postgraduate students at the National Glass Centre. Continue reading

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