FORMERLY Salisbury and Wells Theological College, until 1994,
Sarum College, a fine Grade I listed building, with its front
attributed to Wren, its 19th-century chapel, library, and
magnificent view of Salisbury Cathedral, is now an independent
centre for Christian study and research. It offers space and time
for the nourishing of the human spirit, and the arts play an
important part in this vision.
It has recently begun to host important artists' work, open to
the public free of charge, and each lasting more than two months,
as well as exhibitions by local schools and art societies in
The current exhibition of glass sculpture and stained glass,
"Through a Glass Darkly", is, of course, inspired by St Paul's much
quoted letter to the Corinthians. But the brief is also taken from
George Herbert's poem "The Elixir". Herbert was parish priest at
Bemerton, Salisbury, from 1630 to 1633.
A man that looks on glass,
On it may stay his eye;
Or if he pleaseth, through it pass,
And then the heaven espy.
The seven artists, all masters in the field of glass art and
ecclesiastical art, have presented not only an enormous variety of
colours, shapes, and designs, but a diversity of philosophical
attitudes to expressing faith and hope in the ultimate light.
At Sarum College, it is believed that art should not be isolated
in a sterile gallery, but should surround people in their daily
life; and so the pieces are placed in the communal areas, and a
simple free catalogue gives a clear plan of where the numbered
works are to be found.
After seeing the famous stained-glass windows of Chartres
Cathedral, Greg Tricker was inspired to work in this medium as well
as paint and sculpture. His work concerns people who have tried to
bring truth and light to the world. At the far end of the
refectory, the sunlight falls on a stained-glass piece, using
medieval imagery, of Joseph of Arimathaea with a group of people,
including Mary Magdalene, packed into a little boat coming by sea
to England and to Glastonbury, guided by an angel.
There is also an iconic St Clare of Assisi, with large soulful
eyes and head-covering of deep emerald green. The artist's
Magdalene, also with large soulful eyes and red head-covering,
hangs in the corridor window by the chapel; so the Benedictine
monks attached to the College, and others, can enjoy it on their
way to and from services.
On the huge glass window looking into the refectory, where
people stand outside talking, hang Nicola Hopwood's three
stained-glass narrative pieces using hand-blown coloured glass,
predominantly rich red and blue, of Thomas's doubt that Christ
would be resurrected, of the ascension, and of the reassuring
golden shaft of the Holy Spirit descending among the apostles,
represented in deep red and blue.
Alex Hoare works with light, sound, and theatre design. Her
table-top amber-tinged triptych in kilnformed glass illustrates the
text from St Paul faithfully. The left glass panel shows the large
innocent face of a child; the centre panel is covered in fine
cracks; and the right is clear. Each panel is made of double glass
walls shaped like a stage or filmic cyclorama, allowing back
lighting or front projection for greater effect.
Sally Pollitzer's shoulder-high movable The Green
Screen in acid-etched Danziger striated glass in lead with
aluminium frame, placed on the first floor overlooking the garden,
partly reproaches us that we do not always see the beauty of God in
nature, because we are not looking.
Between the green panels, she has etched umbels and cow parsley,
as well as the lily and rose of Mary, and the crown of thorns of
Christ. She chose glass because, she says, "it holds the
possibility of illuminating and reflecting the love of God."
By coincidence, Tracey Sheppard had just finished and installed
an engraved glass screen for St Lawrence's, Winchester, inspired by
the Herbert poem, when she was invited to take part. On the wall of
the common room hang a print of the huge completed design and a
full-size working cartoon. She has engraved the words of the first
verse to be read going into the church, and the third coming
Daisies, representing the innocence of the Christ-child;
dandelions (bitter herbs), a symbol of the Passion; bees, the
embodiment of diligence and good order; and butterflies and
dragonflies, representing the resurrection, are all engraved on
The next best thing to seeing Tom Denny's transfiguration window
in Durham Cathedral is seeing the original cartoon, with its
incredible details. It hangs in the hallway near the bookshop,
together with other designs intended for Tewkesbury Abbey, Malvern
Priory, Sunderland Minster, and St Margaret's, Millington. The
window was dedicated to the late Archbishop of Canterbury Lord
Ramsey, who returned in retirement to Durham, where he had been the
Denny is fond of silver staining, using silver nitrate, to
produce a range of amber tones; but he also uses deep blues and
purples that flow across the lead in primeval shapes. A pale-blue
figure of Christ is seen on the cross in a shaft of blue light in
the apex, and the space is filled with stories from the Bible with
the characters in timeless garments: the transfiguration with the
apostles watching; Christ healing the boy with epilepsy; and a
group of modern pilgrims coming to Durham, among whom is Lord
Glass reflects, refracts, and transmits light. Sally Fawkes has
brought together all that modern glass technology has to offer with
her concept and sculpture Face to Face. The solid piece is
in the shape of an avocado pear cut open with a space where the nut
or seed of life is absent. Though it seems hollow, there is a solid
transparent window through which one sees a myriad of replicated
shapes like pebbles of light. Her feeling about the process of
moving from childhood understanding, through adult confusion, to,
it is hoped, knowing reality is: "Our past can only be experi-enced
through our senses and what we take the time to know. Reflecting on
what has passed is integral to knowing."
The exhibition runs at Sarum College, 19 The Close,
Salisbury, until 3 December. Phone 01722 424800.