A Talk in Malta - 2003
I find myself here at the invitation of Dr Minton who is convinced that I have a contribution to make to this conference. I tried to wriggle out of it – made excuses, but he has great faith in me and it occurred to me that I was letting him down – suppose he was right? He admires what I do – it occurred to me that rather than what we say, it is what we all do which is crucial.
To illustrate my point, I have provided you all with a small example of my work, the completion of which, I feel, has a great deal to do with the crisis we all face. I know this is so, because I have observed its effect on all who have seen it, from its initial conception, right through to its transformation of the building it was made for.
Apart from five months sheer hard work making it, I can claim no credit for the content which came from elsewhere and is still revealing itself. For this reason I would like to try and use it in order to clarify the point it is trying to make.
The image came complete and perfected itself under my guidance. The church asked for the best and mentioned a dove. I don’t know what they had in mind, but I have never seen stained glass quite like it and instead of a dove, what we all got was a Phoenix in a ball of fire, - emblem of Pluto – herald of spiritual death, rebirth and transformation, set in deep space like us, amid a spinning galaxy of glittering stars, which, being made of pure crystal, dazzle the spectator and fill the church with rainbow colours. More a jewel than glass – on a fine day it is difficult to look at.
Certainly I set out with an image in mind, but nothing like this. I am as astonished as anyone else. Furthermore, every potential problem which arose during its completion, any one of which could have wrecked the project, resolved itself of its own accord:- for example, the last batch of gold pink glass to be blown, was made available to me, as was the pure lead crystal, - along with the magician who cut and polished it. The intricate design required very fine lead, finer than anything I knew of, - at which point, a specialist appeared who could make any size to order. On starting to make up the panels I found that my hands were too clumsy, - everything kept flying apart. I virtually had to relearn the craft I had practised for 40 years. Then there was the problem of the deep, cool Prussian blue – so essential to the image which I had been given and which nothing on the market could match. Only by doubling the thickness of one particular blue could this be realised, requiring a specialised process, - it was made available.
I mention this as proof that nothing in life is fixed, all crises are there to be faced and solved. The closed doors which confront us are still only doors – they will all open if we find the keys.
Current research along hitherto wilder scientific shores, coupled with our insatiable desire to prise open the lid of Pandora’s box, has created a reality crisis, which promises to take us back to the centre of our consciousness of what and who we are and what we may yet become. The implications of this for us all are explicit: The shaman – the priest – the zen master – the scientist, and, dare I say it, this rose window, all now speak to us in the same language – if only we have the ears, eyes and hearts to comprehend. The language of politicians, however, is a mystery that may never be solved. We have no need to study religious texts, sutras or learned theses, to realise that we are all truly one body, inseparable from each other, the planet and the universe and herein lies the secret of this rose window: A brief study of quantum, unified field and relativity theory will make it clear, that the frontier between matter and energy has disappeared. The sacred egg of space, time and matter has hatched - we are the phoenix – its consuming eternal fire is the human mind, given to each one of us by Prometheus. How interesting that the Gods do everything in their power to prevent our ascent. Just what are they afraid of? Only a quantum leap of expansion will decide whether we now self-destruct or take flight into a spiritual dimension. We have reached another threshold on our evolutionary journey, comparable to when the animals stood up and decided to become human.
While science and knowledge form the keystone of any cultural arch – art and the spirit are the columns on which it rests. Today ‘art’ seems to be anything anyone cares to say it is – in which case, can we all be ‘artists’? If the ultimate criterion of this art is, as it seems, to shock, disturb and repel, then I fail to see its relevance to conflict resolution – quite the opposite! Why not submit the whole traumatised planet for the Turner prize, with its unrivalled conceptual event of September 11th, before which pickled sharks, flayed corpses, excrement and genital debris are reduced to fine art of the madhouse?
For the purposes of this conference, I should like to offer my work as a proven artistic means, dedicated to physical, emotional and spiritual solace, healing, harmony, peace and renaissance, achieved in this instance by the controlled and concentrated use of crystal, glass, living colour, light and beauty, yes, beauty – we can all shock by being ugly – it’s very easy – and the human race has a talent for it. To shock with beauty is not easy and it can take your breath away, it can make the heart ache, – it is an art form and essential diet of the human spirit, which is dying of malnutrition. Why else do up to 8,000 people a day visit the Alhambra Palace, what are they looking for? I have always been bothered by the notion that the practice of ‘art’ should be a sacred activity. Children, in their state of innocence, before they are corrupted by us, apply this artistry to practically everything they do, illuminating and refreshing our jaded vision. Like priest, priestess, oracle or clairvoyant, those who work from a place of stillness reach through and make contact with realities which, in many cases are more valid than this one. If we consider that the greatest untapped energy in the universe is the controlled, focussed use of the human mind, then obviously, it can, as we see, all around us, be harnessed to diabolic, as well as divine ends.
From my point of view, given the problems that I faced – the appearance of this bird is magical and proves that if we dedicate ourselves to the art of healing, the means and the strength will be revealed. By transforming ourselves, we transform our world.
In Goethe’s words: “ Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now.”
May the Force be with you!