Original Surfaces (3)

Is glass a surface? Glass has a surface but I suppose it’s more a material? No matter – I just wanted to add in an appreciation of old glass when seen as part of the decorative scheme.

When we first moved here we hung an old steel engraving in the Studio – one of those Victorian art works of an obscure religious scene – in this case The First Reformers presenting their famous protest at the Diet of Spires on 19th April, 1529. It was glazed with its original sheet of rippled glass and watching the room change, distorted in its reflections, was essentially more appealing than the print itself. It provided one of those rare transcendent moments of the type you have when you get to relax in a room you’ve created.

We have come, in our own in-house language, to call this ‘wiggly-woggly’ glass, because of its effects, but officially its drawn glass created by drawing molten glass out to form flat sheet. Modern glass is float glass – created by floating molten glass on a flat surface. The difference is the uneven ( including the occasional bubble) surface of the former. Float glass is, like so many other things (insipid paint colours, clumsy mouldings, artists who can’t draw) one of those changes that is supposed to represent a positive advance in the world – but for all their efficiencies lack charm or any reason to engage.

When framing old art works, in vintage frames, I now try, where possible, to use original glass – air bubbles and all – something my framer is slowly coming to terms with. As to the house itself, too many years as flats mean that few original window panes remain except in the library where there are four large panes of wiggly-woggly glass. Although I can sit in the library and look through the window – and as I do subtly moving my head back forth to make impressionist waves ripple across the garden, the pleasure is hard to explain and the effect difficult to capture.

Today is unusual. Light is trickling into the library. The sun is reflecting off the windscreen of a car parked across the road and streaming through the drawn glass windows of the south-facing and usually sunless library. Its intensity is such that the light is casting rippled patterns against the flat red walls and transforming the flat paint surface into something wondrous and temporary. What I can usually only see by looking out is imprinted on the internal walls of the library and messing with the highly programmed twenty-first century intelligence that runs my camera’s, efficient but charmless, decision making processes – perfect.


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