Friday, 26 August 2016


Nine artists working in glass bring some extra magic to the wonderful airy space of Salisbury Cathedral

Written by Diana Woolf
Diana-WoolfNine glass artists have been commissioned to make sitespecific works of art inspired by Salisbury Cathedral, and the intriguing results are now on show in this indoor and outdoor exhibition. The show is part of the cathedral’s excellent contemporary visual arts programme and is a great excuse to visit (or re-visit) the building.

The artists have responded to the challenge of the cathedral space in very different ways, with some directly engaging with the building and others responding in a more tangential way to its sense of spirituality, although all have picked up the exhibition’s theme of reflection.

Placed in the Close, Launch by Rebecca Newnham (cocurator of the exhibition along with the cathedral’s Jacquiline Creswell), acts as eye-catching show-opener. A giant ribbon-like structure covered in small, individually cut panels of glass, its flowing curves elegantly frame the cathedral.

Inside, Belgian artist Sylvie Vandenhoucke’s series Lost Histories, groupings of empty frames made out of glass frit (tiny chips of glass), encourages a closer look at the surrounding memorial plaques, while Amy Cushing’s Incandescent highlights William Pye’s magical overflowing font. A column of glass fragments suspended above the water, its rusts, reds, pinks and blues echo the colours in the nearby stained glass, while their reflections appear to be mysteriously submerged in the still font water.

Sally Fawkes and Richard Jackson’s New Perspective similarly emphasises the cathedral’s architecture. Displayed on an altar-like structure, it’s made up of two wedges of clear glass placed on a band of mirrored glass engraved with tiny repeating patterns. The juxtaposition of the different glass surfaces and the detailed patterning within the glass creates a series of reflections that are both confusing and beguiling and draw attention to the cathedral’s wonderful vaulting.

Galia Amsel’s sculpture Connection is less about the cathedral’s architecture and more about its spiritual meaning, although ironically it’s the most attention-grabbing piece here. A giant length of ducting cantilevered out from the clerestory and ending in a series of illuminated glass tubes designed to look like fibre optic cables, it suggests a pathway from earth to the spiritual realm, and can be seen as a high-tech visual metaphor for prayer.

Livvy Fink’s two Untitled sculptures are equally unexpected, although quieter, responses to the space. Slabs of glass placed in dark box frames and carefully spotlit, they capture the frozen moment between liquid and solid states of matter. Their hypnotic organic forms pull the viewer in, appearing like miniature universes and creating a nearspiritual sense of contemplation in perfect keeping with the calm of the surrounding cathedral.

Until 6 November at Salisbury Cathedral, The Close, Salisbury, Wiltshire: 01722-555120, 

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