Arranging material for this website revealed an issue which only substantiates itself in the long view.   From early on in my professional career, and at various points between, I have made exploratory forays into the nature and manifestation of light itself as a phenomenon.   These individual and discontiguous instances explore the subject in both physical and metaphorical modes, the most recent being the modestly implemented spectral changes of the word 'colours' through the seven pages of this site.   To extemporise, it could be as if the whole site, spun at great speed, would become invisible as if never having existed.   This challenges credibility both with a mild humour and a deadly seriousness, with more than a nudge of hopeful encouragement to "get on board" my Muse.  

 

St Helen's Water Sculpture Competition (1973).   This work was short-listed for Pilkington's Glass HQ in Lancashire.

Using the water element passively, I developed a parallel theme of reflection and transparency in the sculpture itself.   A composite structure based on the silica molecule was developed to include a blue neon rising from the lowest point to the highest.   This acknowledges the "natural science of transparency".   The full structure would rotate slowly in the six-sided water form once every twenty-four hours in another allusion to the necessity of light allowing access to the otherwise fugitive phenemenon of transparency. 

The winning entry was a set of three large glass tanks through which water decanted.   The tanks broke after a few years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Schlange, Dark Star, Night Cube.   In a pair of windows commissioned for the Boys' Brigade centenary in 1983, I envisaged Light as necessarily in a continuous assault upon Darkness. 

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Westminster Abbey 1992.   For the short-listed drawing which I was asked to prepare for a window in Poets' Corner, I devised a new means of carrying an array of poets' names.   Providing spaces for the subsequent inclusion of around thirty poets' names within the window was a condition of the commission.  This method of incorporating a heavily lettered area into the design was based on an illuminated manuscript I had encountered of the "crossword poem" style used in the Canterbury Codex Aureus, Stockholm Gospels of 750AD, and "carmina figurata" written by Publilius Optatianus Porfyrius for Constantine the Great.   This device I adapted to contain the names of poets as their various societies would in time 'sponsor' a name to be included within the window.   

Another vertical / horizontal movement I had utilised often in the past paralleled the Anglo-Saxon metaphor of Life as Light  i.e. as that of a bird entering from an aperture high on one wall of a great hall, experiencing the warmth, light, merriment, smells and happy sounds of communal life in celebration, before exiting directly through an aperture on the opposite wall back into the cold darkness of the void outside.   Bird forms tumble across the upper areas of the window.   The white bird is representative of the white raven which returned to the ark black after it had discovered land.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We Wait for Light II 1997, created for a British Crafts Council exhibition of contemporary directions in architectural / environmentally-scaled glass.   Quarries of various glasses are bolted onto a beaten and seamed lead sheet.   Painting, staining, gilding on some elements and deep bevelled plate (float).

 

In the complete installation a lectern in front of the piece contains the words:

.....but behold obscurity

without the prospect of a total

darkness there can be no critical

evaluation of light

limp damp shadow

intentions survive oblivious of space

linear

creation within androgyny

referents / inspirations

canterbury codex aureus 750 ad

purple page with inlaid crosses

gold and silver ink on purple parchment

crossword poems 8th century

concrete poems 20th century

pastoral / clerical

blakes geometry of chance

st cecilia  her voice was as near to heaven

as any mortal could hope to experience

like brendans harp   adamnan 9c

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Entrance artwork at Abbey Church, North Berwick

'Pilgrimage and Settlement:  a Scattering of Doves'

The idea behind the artwork is conceived in three interlinked phases contemplating the age-old acts of migration, their enactment and consequences.   The consequence of settlement is an early manifestation of this, around which structures will evolve as a growing community sees to its practical and spiritual needs.   The presence of water for reasons of connection and survival is seen as a basic requirement for settlement.   The "passing through" of peoples is particularly relevant to North Berwick, as a ferry operated here from as early as 950AD, serving the large diocese of St. Andrews in Fife, which covered much of the south and east of Scotland.   The abbey Church lies within the grounds of the old abbey through which countless pilgrims would pass on their way to the ferry.   The abbey stood near to the Old Abbey Road where medieval finds uncovered recently by archaeologists are on display in the Museum of Scotland, Chambers Street, Edinburgh.   During the reign of King David I, King of Scots, the four Border abbeys, amongst many others, were also founded causing a further increase of movement within, and indeed beyond, Scotland itself.

 

 

 

Gay Sheep Experiment (1973).   Developed as a series of drawings and paperworks for presentation to the Scottish Arts Council as a proposed landscape work.   They (SAC) agreed to fund this project, which then fell foul of the Scottish Wool Marketing Board who would not allow the colouring by dye on any of the Scottish flocks' pelts.   This effectively scuppered an engaging project development, which involved a flock of sheep individually dyed one of the three basic colours of light, being moved regularly between unheralded field locations over the period of a year.    A couple of years later, a local farmer, a regular visitor to the Royal Scottish Academy, and who already owned some works of mine, offered me several sheep to "practise on".   While a few sheep penned indoors would have been one minor component of the project, I had to decline this offer.

The project was revived in 2008 for the Dublin-Cork motorway, with the addition of a low stainless steel prism and a divided field at a permanent site.

 

 

 

 Rannoch School Centenary Window 1984 (Schiehallion reflected in the loch).   Not long after the above, I explored the exchange from dark to light as being an upward drift, emerging from a symbolised reality to a more severely mannered atmosphere.

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

My development of the crossword poem matrix then served as one strand of freshly developing investigations.

Another strand co-opted into this developing set of ideas was a phrase taken from the Old Testament:  "we wait for light, but behold obscurity."   Incisively relevant at any point in time, it felt particularly so at the turn of the new millennium.   Around that time, it was an ambition of mine to create an "Obelisk for a New Century" containing these words.   This failed to materialise, possibly because I told nobody about it.   

The matter has now been resolved, 2012 (see commissions).

Included amongst this new body of work were two pieces:  "We Wait for Light I" and "We Wait for Light II." 

 

We Wait for Light I, 1996.   This piece was made as an edition for an exhibition which is still travelling in Europe.   Materials and techniques involved include antique coloured glass, painted and stained, embossed lead sheet, bevelled glass plate, gilding etc.   Various elements are bolted onto the front of the piece.   A grid reference (UK) engraved on the plate relates to a personal place chosen by the purchaser.   Editions of this work are available from Glasmalerei Peters, Paderborn, Germany. 

 

 

 

 

Glasgow Botanic Gardens project 2008.   A permanent installation in the Fern House (Kibble Palace), comprising of a series of eight large pieces, seven of which each relate to a spectral colour.   The eighth, representing the cumulative "white", is the central "mother" panel.   Set within a large Victorian glasshouse, the isue of light dependency in regard to transparency and the photosynthetic process is served.  

 

 

 The transitory nature of earthly travel is served on the two front entrance doors where fading footprints in the sand, obliterated at every tidal motion, become the symbolic equivalent of a spiritual journey.   The footprints were taken from some local children and adults from the congregation.

Looking through and past the entrance doors to the inner screen the shapes of doves crossing water serves as a metaphor for time and our own modest involvements which contribute infinitesimally, but in a valued measure, to the larger picture.   The two opposing coasts of Fife and East Lothian are featured here as the shortest crossing of the Forth in the area, between North Berwick in East Lothian and Earlsferry in Fife.   (There is the site of a chapel on the far side.)   The doves represent the timeless and spiritual nature of the pilgrimage taking place within ourselves as well as the more literal earthbound sense of moving from one place to another.

On exiting, we are confronted by the wording on the wall, affirming the theme of the installation.   Seen also from within the sanctuary, through the screen, this emblematically endorses a code born of the natural evolution of mankind.   We are all individually part of a mass movement through time, bigger than the sum of its parts and which is ultimately impervious to our own will or the contrivance of control by others.