Exhibition and publication – Gilded Light: Sixteenth-Century Stained Glass Roundels | London Art Week, 1-8 July 2016

Gilded Light: 16th-century stained glass roundels from the collection of Sir Thomas Neave and other private collections, an exhibition that took place at Sam Fogg, London, from 1 to 8 July 2016.


An artist in the close circle of Lambert van Noort (c. 1520, Amersfoort – 1571, Antwerp), Nebuchadnezzar eating grass among the cows, Southern Low Countries, Antwerp, c. 1560 (after 1558), 26 cm diameter


This exhibition, the first of its kind in London for over a decade, brought together over 35 stained glass roundels and panels of other formats, the majority of which were made during the first two-thirds of the sixteenth century when the art-form was at its zenith. The core group of roundels featured in the exhibition were brought together in the early 1800s by one of the most important early-modern connoisseur collectors of Medieval and Renaissance stained glass, the second Baronet Sir Thomas Neave of Dagnam Park (1761-1848). An avid enthusiast of European artwork, and particularly of glass, Neave was one of the first private collectors to amass a collection of high quality stained glass from the Low Countries, purchasing many of his pieces directly from dissolved monasteries and foundations, or through agents such as the German cloth merchant John Christopher Hampp (1750-1825) who settled in Norwich and traded with Flanders throughout his career. Much of the Neave collection was destroyed by ordnance and fire damage over many years, or has subsequently been dispersed; some of those panels formerly in his collection and that have survived can today be found in the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, the Burrell Collection, Glasgow, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, and in English churches endowed by the Neave family. His family seat, Dagnam Park in South Weald, Essex, was demolished in 1950 and the remains of his glass collection dispersed by his direct descendants. Characteristic of Sir Thomas Neave’s taste and acute eye for detail and quality, the group of roundels presented in this exhibition mark a vivid and breath-taking high point in the medium.

The exhibition was accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue, now unfortunately sold out.


Publication and Exhibition – Late Medieval Panel Paintings II: Materials, Methods, Meanings, Edited by Susie Nash

Late Medieval Panel Paintings II

In January of this year I had the privilege to work with three astounding Art Historians, Nicholas Herman, Anna Koopstra, and Nicola Jennings, on a publication entitled Late Medieval Panel Paintings II: Materials, Methods, Meanings. The book is edited by Professor Susie Nash and published by Paul Holberton, to accompany an exhibition mounted by Sam Fogg and held at the gallery of Richard L. Feigen, New York, from 22nd January to 22nd February 2016.


The book, the second volume in a series on the subject, presents a series of in-depth studies of late medieval panel paintings, as well as one tapestry, made between 1400 and 1530 in Spain, Germany, Austria, France, and the Southern Netherlands. Many of the objects examined are new to scholarly attention, offering steps forward in the discussion and analysis of medieval works of art, and significant insights into the artists and patrons of the period.

Late Medieval Panel Paintings II: Materials, Methods, Meanings

ed. Susie Nash, 2016

300 x 245 mm; paperback

352 pages

ISBN 978-1-907372-91-9

The publication is available through the Paul Holberton website, as well as at the gallery and website of Sam Fogg, and on amazon:







Palmyra is a visualisation of broader and total conflict

Religion is a fundamental shaper of the cultural, social, political, and written and spoken language of a people, and like the distinctions and variances between language itself, religion charts boundaries and confluences at the junctions between societies. To destroy the language of religion, and the art it has created, is to destroy the very history and identity of those who have created us.

It is with the totality of arrogance and the contradictions of denial that over the course of the last year so-called Islamic State made sweeping movements that helped to erase the reasons and desire for us to exist on this planet, but it remains one of the saddest truths that they are not the only group to have done so through the history of accidents that makes up what may be termed ‘human time’. In a recent article in Art Monthly (AM 394) concerned with the naming and nature of this temporal occupation, and the emergence of an ‘anthropocene era’, Jamie Sutcliffe brought into vivid focus the micro-engagement of biological systems, of which the human being cannot be considered an insular, hermetically sealed entity but rather a construct of mutually interdependent ‘species-assemblages’; a collection of billions of cells, organisms, and bacteria without the static form we commonly interpret our bodies as having. We are as much accidents of survival as the visual and non-visual cultures we have spawned – a matter made painfully tenuous with every new moment of destruction. Indeed, destruction appears to me at least to have had as much energy, significance, and substantiality as our concurrent attempts at creation. And what an indefinably beautiful idea creation has proven to be, both biologically and societally. This is what we must protect above all, I believe, but the issue remains thorny, for creation is on the whole inextricably linked to a greater or lesser degree with some form of destruction.

Open Secret – Anthony Caro (1924-2013)

Below is a catalogue entry concerning Anthony Caro’s book edition Open Secret, written for the upcoming publication of an important private UK collection.


Anthony Caro (1924-2013)

Open Secret


Edition of 31 sculptures in four materials: three in stainless steel, three in grey cardboard, 10 in bronze and 15 in brass, plus one artist’s proof of each; accompanied by hand-written poems in German and English by Hans Magnus Enzensberger, and a passage transcribed by Caro from Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice.

Published by Ivory Press, London, UK

27 x 61 x 80 cm approx. (with variations between editions)


The Open Secret series was first exhibited as part of Blood on Paper, an exhibition of artists’ books held at the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, UK, between 15/04/2008 and 29/06/2008. It has since been featured at the Whitechapel Gallery, London (25-27/09/2009) and the Lightbox Gallery and Museum, Woking (20/01/2009-21/04/2009), and will travel to Madrid in February 2015 as part of Books beyond Artists: Words and Images, hosted by Ivory Press. Each edition takes the form of a hinged metal case opening to reveal a collaborative portfolio by Caro and the German author and poet Hans Magnus Enzensberger, incorporating text and images.

Anthony Caro was one of the first artists to challenge the orthodoxy of post-war British sculpture. In what Adrian Stokes saw as the superseding of the traditionally predominant sculpting material – stone – Caro embraced the pourable, plastic, and moulded qualities of unrefined metals to redefine the language of sculpted forms. From roots in the iron foundry, he moved through a spectrum of media, incorporating clay, card and paper, brass, bronze and occasionally pigments into his work, forging particularised structural relationships out of planes, corners, curves and tubes in each case.

The Open Secret series provides something of a bridge between two related but divergent veins in Caro’s practice, combining the sense of monumentality and mass of material inherent to his increasingly large-scale installations from around 1974 onwards, and the intimacy and delicacy of poise that characterise the artist’s extensive body of table pieces. The result is a finely tuned spatial balance that incorporates both floating and solid elements in counterpoint, establishing a tactile table-top sculpture whose form is in a state of flux (these ‘books’ are literally made to be touched and opened), with a structure rooted in the solidity of its four-square geometric footprint. This middle ground is shared by certain larger works – Tundra (1975), or Jupiter (2005) for instance – along with many of his ceramic pieces, particularly examples in the Can Co series he created in the mid-seventies, but they are drawn here into a unique and charged state of formal dynamism. This touches on Michael Fried’s famous assertion that Caro’s sculpture always appears to be at the point of disintegration, that is, that through the movement of the viewer literal visual references can be conjured and crushed in consecutive moments.[i] As a result, the attendant connotations are both abstract and vivid; the open, fluid form of these ‘cases’ suggests the opening out of language itself, and the dynamic rather than static qualities of its rippling ‘leaves’ evoke both the turn of phrase and word inherent to the poetic format, and the literal turning of the pages within – an act of almost infinite and lyrical potential fundamental to our delight of the written word. In this respect, the variants of Open Secret are abstracted somewhat from the reality of comprehendible forms, so that they are not based solely on visible references in the outside world but operate, as Ian Barker notes, as ‘vehicles with expressions of feeling’ that touch on literary themes.[ii]

The artist’s choice of materials for Open Secret offers new and fruitful avenues for the interpretation of his wider oeuvre, and draws on tonal, textural, and visual subtleties that diverge from those more commonly associated with his practice. His interest in the materiality of metal in its supposedly pure form (the use of paint to disguise the true nature of metal was almost entirely abandoned early on in his career) seems key here. Each of the edition’s variants acts as an almost elemental substance (especially when seen collectively), with an identity and meaning related to but distinct from their counterparts. None of the selected metals, however, can finally be understood as being pure in an elemental sense– since they are all admixtures of other substances, and quite deliberately chosen as such. Like language, each embodies the consummation of a process of careful measuring and manipulation by experience, craft and the human mind.

Matthew Reeves


[i] Michael Fried, ‘Two Sculptures by Anthony Caro’, in Artforum, vol. 6, no. 6, Feb. 1968, pp.24-25

[ii] Ian Barker, Anthony Caro; Quest for the New Sculpture, London, 2004, p. 95

Malgorzata Bany and studio vit | Etage Projects, Copenhagen, 20 February – 24 April 2015

Etage Projects, Copenhagen

Most objects made by design have at their core an innate repeatability — this often depends on symmetry — regular, even shapes that can be extruded from a flat material or formed in a mould. The handmade, i.e. the irregular, is removed, diminished, or essentialised. Here, colour too is often subdued or graduated.

This joint installation draws from themes common to the field of design. Both collaborators utilise shapes ratified by a sense of ideal proportion, shapes that, like the perfect wholeness of a net diagram, can be equally manifested in two or three dimensions. Both restrict their use of colour to a careful minimum, often relying on the effect of that cast by light from a remote source, leaving mirrored hues, streaked highlights, and colours in shadow. Both reflect on the emotive content of the unquantifiable in the making of an object — inconsistencies of tone, the presence, movement, and shape-making properties of light, a given material’s catchlights and reflective potential.

It has been said of Gothic architecture that it is an architecture of emotion — that the science of geometry is second to an invocation of a spiritual essence within an imagined celestial interior. That geometry can hang in suspension within a diffused architecture, a space of emergent boundaries and dissolvable shadows, is a point of focus for both Bany and studio vit. Bany in particular, embraces fields of shape and space that share a close connection to Gothic buildings and their attendant environments of objects – altarpieces, quatrefoils, screens, lancet windows. Repeated circles with stucco pigments are arranged in a close tension, nestled and symmetrical, or running in parallel with extended bases and hard right-angle corners suggestive of digitized limestone. Often, her titles play on architectural terminology particular to medieval sites; an apse becomes a semi-circular space seen from directly overhead. This is paired with an equally pronounced interest in the role of the domestic arts, and her fan-like supports and calligraphic brushstrokes also draw strongly on the aesthetics of Japanese interior design. Pulling at such diverse conceptual strands, her collections of shapes evoke a purified language of abstract symbols.

Malgorzata bany

Studio vit take an approach to the geometry of shape and mass that pertains to classical Euclidean theory, the cone, cube, cylinder and sphere dominant juxtapositions in their output. Nevertheless, the aesthetic delicacy and balance of their products draws on the emotive properties of harmonious or imbalanced forms that break the strict ratios of classical proportion. When seen together, their Cone lights become a series of moveable combinations, each of the two forms they comprise interacting with its partner in a singular and divergent counterpoint. As with Bany’s painted surfaces, these combination objects rely on the defining properties of light. They are dense, silky, or rigid triangulations in daylight, emitters of spectral and explosive radiance when alight.

studio vit

With all these works, context is acutely variant. As proportion, light, and formal and spatial relationships are key elements of their production, so too are they defining of the works’ reception within a given space. As with objects of design, they deepen our relationship with a surrounding environment, but as works of a unique nature, they offer and develop repeated forms in un-repetitious and unrepeatable arrangements.

Publication – Ron Haselden | Papillon de la nuit – domobaal editions 2014

This summer sees the publication of On the construction of Papillon de la nuit, a collection of my notes and related photographs and stills concerning the creation and reception of Papillon de la nuit, a monumental sculptural installation in the Brittany countryside by Ron Haselden, one of Britain’s foremost site-specific sculptors. Limited to a run of 200 copies, the publication is available via the DOMOBAAL website.

book display

28 pages, 16 colour photographs, one of which is included as a full-bleed scored and folded A4 loose insert.

domobaal editions – 2014

ISBN 978 1 905957 53 8

Relics of London Past


Images such as this one of the entrance to the now lost Christ’s Hospital, taken by the Society for Photographing Relics of Old London c.1879, transform many of London’s spaces into monumental relics, abstracted of people and petrified under soot-soaked chiaroscuro. They are at once impenetrable and unrestricted; we cannot inhabit or circulate their lost spaces, but the images are classless, interrogated under the pseudo-scientific lens of the project’s executors.

Of the photographers commissioned by the Society, William Strudwick, A & J Bool, and Henry Dixon and Son, it was Dixon who concerned himself most with the interiors of buildings, understanding that any record of London’s architecture would be incomplete without some preservation of its lived, domestic spaces. Accompanying many of the photographs are details of the signified building’s history, or exclamations of its architectural and artistic importance. The staircase of No.10, Austin Friars, is especially melancholic, its penned notes by the secretary of the Society, Alfred Marks, describing “a painted ceiling, the only one, perhaps, yet left in a City house.” Tantalisingly caught at the top-left corner, this last specimen of a painted Queen Anne ceiling is nevertheless hidden by the gloom of the negative’s near-focus. We are admitted to the guts of London’s houses (barley-twist balusters pattern the photograph like ripples in the developing fluid), yet we are barred from anything more than the barest of their visual facts; their spaces yet lie out of reach.

Austin House

Alongside domestic views, historic monuments from the Tudor and Stuart eras formed the focus of the Dixons’ efforts, including the tomb of the founder of Charterhouse, which had been sculpted from alabaster in 1615; “The boys already in their seats, with smug fresh faces and shining white collars; the old black-gowned pensioners are on their benches; the Chapel is lighted, and the Founder’s tomb, with its grotesque carvings and monster heraldries, sparkles and shines with the most wonderful shadows and lights. There he lies, Fundator Noster, in his ruff and gown, awaiting the great Examination Day.” [William Thackeray, The Newcomes, 1855]. By the time the Society’s photograph was taken, these ‘shadows and lights’ had worn down to a dulled mass from a distant past, hulked inconveniently in the corner of the chapel.

chartehouse tomb

Where Thackeray writes of a living throng still occupying the space of the Charterhouse chapel, the image presented by the Society includes enough of the building’s romanesque stone arch to suggest an ecclesiastical context while simultaneously removing all traces of the chapel’s moveables, and thus its capacity for a human congregation, save for the single carved pew-end tucked at the bottom of the frame. Columns border the sides of the photograph, separating the space of the tomb from the author’s own [and by extension, that of the viewer] within the nave. The tomb’s elision from any notion of ongoing use may indeed have been a response to a waning congregation by the end of the nineteenth century, but it is kept at a further remove by a sharp and densely aligned row of Stuart railings, erected both to preserve the carvings, and suggest another, intangible realm, which could be occupied only by the deceased. This iron barrier serves as a metaphor of the photographic project itself, suggesting a presence beyond the plate while removing any sense of the subjects’ viability in the ever changing metropolis.

The scale of time within the image is one laden with constant pressure, perpetually threatening the eroding stasis of the monument;

“…They would not think to lie so long. 
Such faithfulness in effigy 
Was just a detail friends would see: 
A sculptor’s sweet commissioned grace 
Thrown off in helping to prolong 
The Latin names around the base. 

They would not guess how early in 
Their supine stationary voyage 
The air would change to soundless damage, 
Turn the old tenantry away; 
How soon succeeding eyes begin 
To look, not read. Rigidly they 

Persisted, linked, through lengths and breadths 
Of time. Snow fell, undated. Light 
Each summer thronged the grass. A bright 
Litter of birdcalls strewed the same 
Bone-littered ground. And up the paths 
The endless altered people came, 

Washing at their identity. 
Now, helpless in the hollow of 
An unarmorial age, a trough 
Of smoke in slow suspended skeins 
Above their scrap of history, 
Only an attitude remains: 

Time has transfigured them into 
Untruth. The stone fidelity 
They hardly meant has come to be 
Their final blazon…”                Excerpt from Philip Larkin, An Arundel Tomb, 1964

The Society’s approach to the project seems scattergun and at times tautological, shaped more by what buildings they knew of personally, and to those they could gain entry, than by any strict taxonomic record of the city’s streets, houses, and precincts. It is perhaps exactly this that sets them apart from their contemporaries, C.A Mathew for instance, who captured the noise of a populous street and the hubbub of industry, with nothing of their impending loss. The truly scientific, it would seem, such as Eadweard Muybridge over in America, who was mapping the gridded conurbation of San Francisco in his vast panoramas around the same time, miss the point just as much. The warmth of the Society’s one-offs, their idiosyncratic method of urban portraiture, catches the viewer off guard, sentimentally, but with a debilitating recognition of the shock of the future, which bears down upon each frame, and cracks the nostalgia from within.

Though precious sections of the London cityscape recorded by the Society’s photographers have been preserved (for example, see http://spitalfieldslife.com/2010/12/30/in-search-of-relics-of-old-london/ for a concise comparison of past and present images), most are now destroyed, which is hardly surprising considering the continuous devastations to the city’s fragile history that have been effected by war and human progress. As Benjamin’s Angel of History is blown to a point of catastrophe, London’s lifeblood has been perpetually battered by the winds of change, and the city’s population forgets its closest ancestors in an instant. As Harold Clunn wrote in his 1947 guide to London’s perpetual re-birth London Marches On, ‘one must face the fact that the unwieldy town houses of our grandfathers … are doomed.’

Image copyright Bishopsgate Institute.