Friday, September 28, 2018

Hockney adds another way of making art to his portfolio

Westminster Abbey has a new stained glass window designed by David Hockney RA - and the artist has added a new but traditional method of making art to his already eclectic portfolio of methods for creating art.

The window was commissioned to celebrate the reign of Her Majesty The Queen and was unveiled this week.

The new window is located in the Abbey’s north transept, which was previously just plain glass. It will in future be known formally as 'The Queen's Window'.

It's located in an Abbey that was founded in 960AD and has been the church in which the monarch is crowned since 1066. It is also the final resting place of 17 monarchs.  It's a very special place for new public art.

The Queens Window - a new stained glass window in a building which 
This post is about the process used to produce it and finishes with a video of David Hockney speaking about his very first stained glass window and possibly his very last artwork involving a tree.

About David Hockney

The reason for commissioning David Hockney was essentially that

  • he has been one of the most influential artists of The Queen's reign 
  • his contribution has been recognised to date with an Order of Merit and as a Companion of Honour
  • he has a reputation as an artist who works with a =wide range of media and has always been prepared to try new media - or, as in this case, a very traditional method of portraying a visual image
This is his first work in stained glass 

It must feel like a tremendous honour not only to be given the opportunity of celebrating the life of the Queen but also to be able to do so in a building where the artwork will last for centuries.

About the Commission

The artists's brief to provide something symbolic or representational of the subject, rather than a heraldic or figurative design, and for it to be recognisable as his work.

Hockney's response was to develop an image which reflects the The Queen's well known deep affection and connection to the countryside and her identity as a countrywoman.

He designed a country scene, set within his beloved Yorkshire. It features one of his favourite trees at the point in the year that he finds it most attractive - when the hawthorn blossom bursts forth in frothy clouds. He regards that as the celebratory aspect - akin to champagne bubbles!

Unsurprisingly, especially as the design was intended to be representative of his work, it also uses his distinct and vivid colour palette of yellow, red, blue, pink, orange and greens which he has used in the past for paintings of spring in the Yorkshire Wolds.

About the making of the window

Although David Hockney designed the window, its making was not his responsibility.

Barley Studio - a leading stained glass studio of over forty years based in York (which has a rather large Minster with rather a lot of stained glass!) - were commissioned to create the window using traditional techniques

The stained glass artists and craftspeople worked with David Hockney to translate his vision for the window into a reality in stained glass. 

The first task was to get the precise measurements of the window so as to create stencils of the different parts of the window. This was done in May 2017 - and I'm guessing they were at the top of some scaffolding or in a cherry picker for quite a lot of the time.

Barley Studio staff - Keith Marley and Helen Whittaker - take precise measurements 
The next stage involved creating the different sections of the window using lead and stained glass matching the palette determined by Hockney.

Helen Whitaker works on the window at the Barley Studio
When all parts of the window had been made they then needed to be assembled within the window void so as to create the stained glass window. Needless to say this is a job requiring some experience and expertise!

The installation of the Queen's Window
The stained glass window is a piece of art - and as with every piece of art created by Hockney it contains the artist's signature.

David Hockney's signature
Below is a video of David Hockney speaking about the whole process.

The Dean of Westminster, the Very Reverend Dr John Hall, said:
I’m very pleased that David Hockney accepted my invitation to design this window which is a celebration of the reign of Her Majesty The Queen. What he has produced is directly accessible with wonderful colours. It is a country scene to honour a woman who loves her country.

Dedication of the Window

The window will be dedicated formally by the Dean in the presence of the artist, his family, friends and invited guests on Tuesday 2nd October at 11:30am.

More about David Hockney

I've written about David Hockney on a number of occasions on this blog. You can READ my posts BELOW - they're organised backwards by years.

Those in 2006 and 2016 contain references to his artwork about the Yorkshire landscape - including the major exhibition he had at the Royal Academy of Art - which I will never ever forget

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