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Abigail Reynolds on 'Tre', glass and the Cornish Ordinalia
e-interview Rupert White
you say what was stipulated in the original commission? How long ago did
the call go out?
They are all interesting in different ways,
but it was a scene from the Ordinalia - a cycle of three plays that
gripped my imagination, and became the narrative of the thematic of home
in the window.
Yes, which is why it appears in so many place names as a prefix - as to say 'home of….'
Did you decide to make a window quite
quickly? Was that in part because of the nature of the building itself?
My first intention was to work into several
small windows that would make a narrative-line through the building, but
as soon as I saw the 4 meter high window in the library I knew it needed
to be used, and to hold a plural narrative by itself.
Seth is Adam and Eve’s third son. He isn’t depicted as a hero, but as a dutiful, sorrowing son carrying out his father’s final wish: to find his way back to the Gate of Paradise to ask for the ‘Oyl a versi’ (‘Oil of mercy’).
For me Seth is a touching and rather
solitary figure, and he holds out a sort of hope. A hint that the state
of paradise (a state which the philosopher Eliade speaks of as entering
Real Time) can be glimpsed. Maybe just in snatches, and this is somehow
a homecoming. It sounds like a riddle, but to me it makes sense
The angel is from a Dutch woodcut contemporary with the Ordinalia and St Neot, which shows the same scene of Seth's return.
Seth was a more complex decision. As you know, I have been interested in gatherings on the land, and festivals for a long time. This figure is from a photograph taken in 1971 at the Glastonbury Festival by Ron Reid (image above). I was first attracted to this photograph because on one level it is very directly about the act of looking - the figure frames up the photographer - there is a reciprocal look.
In the story Seth looks into Paradise, but
in my scene he is very aware of himself in the word, and our look at
him. He is the entry point to the window. He stands for the viewer, and
the direct address means we look at him first. His bare feet, his
Chinese jacket and the stick he holds against his ribs are all details
that already make him a little bit unworldly - a step aside from normal
life, which made me feel he should be the figure of Seth - somehow aside
from the daily to and fro of life.
I like to think that one would be aware of
the other, but maybe it was just a well-known story at the time, just as
Noah and the Ark still is now. I am glad that Seth has survived in the
Ordinalia and in the church at St Neot. He is like a chink to look
through, a glimpse of something beyond.
There are yet more layers of meaning
and interest in your work. You were able to include some of the glass
you made yourself using local kelp and beach sand. Why did you feel it
important to add these to the composition? Was it challenging from the
technical point of view?
It was done by cutting a hole in the 6mm ‘artista' glass, and fitting the roundels in. It’s very hard to cut a hole in glass, and takes a long time to do, by hand.
It was important for me to include them, as a different way to look at Cornwall. Looking at Cornwall through itself, since the glass is itself a fragment of Cornwall. A lot of the window is connected to my relationship with photography - that is latent in all my decisions, and the glass is no exception. Cornish beaches are so much photographed through glass lenses,. Here the beach becomes the lens. It’s an invitation to look differently - all the window is, but this look cuts across the other narratives in the window and holds a different space, offers a different approach.
Cornwall has no proper cities, and all its industry is rural. Glass making also required a lot of people living close together, and the closest large scale glass production was in Bristol.
I read a Daphne Du Maurier novel called
’The Glass-Blowers’ (not one of her best), looking for clues about glass
here, but it’s set in late 18th Century France during the French
Revolution where there were many small glass houses in the countryside
With the glass I try to do very little to it, so as not to distract from the fact of itself. It’s very beautiful glass and of course quite magical when you know how specific and hand made it is, so I am delighted to mount a simple exhibition (titled 'Flux') of the glass at Kestle Barton.
I should say that I made a little book
about making the glass, also titled Flux, which will be on sale there,
and on my website - and at the Exchange and Newlyn gallery shops. I love
making books, so that was also a real pleasure to put together.
'Tre' was officially unveiled on 5.3.22.‘Flux’ is at Kestle Barton Gallery, Cornwall 9th April - 12th June. Kresen Kernow is open Tues - Sat 9.30 - 4