Tristan Leicester

I chose to work with stained-glass in my part two project. When the need came to develop this craft practice I travelled to the Swansea School of Art to work in their architectural glass department. I was able to learn, not just about stained-glass there but also some aspects of key building craft skills which cross over different disciplines: for example, what it takes to draw up an accurate cartoon and how to make a panel of stained glass watertight.

During the course of my first year studies I made trips to cathedrals in England and France. I was especially moved and fascinated by the motionless aspect of the sculpture on the facades at Chartres and Wells. Samuel Palmer wrote in 1875 that, “Earth has not many things more fair than the West front of Wells cathedral.”

While working with the cartooning aspect of stained-glass I gained insight into Palmer’s work and that of his friend and mentor William Blake. Many of Blake’s paintings are cartoons for larger designs he wished to have painted on the walls of public buildings. He considered his prints as portable frescoes.

Blake was also insistent that one should work in clear colours un-muddied by oil and draw with a thin and wiry outline to show and not hide form. He derived his understanding of art from the study Gothic sculpture. For him line was an expression of energy. I based a panel of stained glass on the use of line in a 13th century window from Chartres investigating how they had used lead lines and paint to create sparkling linear rhythms. I also made two sandblasted glass relief panels and a small series of paintings on glass based on figures from Samuel Palmer’s work.

The large pieces of calligraphy on white surfaces are inspired by a comment from the orthodox scholar and lay theologian Philip Sherrard. He states that sacred doctrine is like purifying snow in that it cleanses the mind of the obliquity and illusion with which it is otherwise filled.