public art

Maternity Dorchester by Sasha Ward

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I’ve just installed printed translucent vinyl on 16 windows - that’s 98 panes - in the delivery rooms of the Maternity Unit at Dorchester Hospital. It was difficult to design (I started this project almost a year ago) and even more difficult to photograph the results. The designs are laid out in a block above, they are on a landscape theme with curved lines cutting across the unattractive window frames. The details within these curved shapes are mostly borrowed from things I’ve done recently and liked, but translated into a colour pallet that works with the pinks, purples and pale blues on the walls of the rooms.

Room 31 - before and during installation

Room 31 - before and during installation

You may wonder why you need to block a lovely view (above right), but where there is a view there is also a balcony covered in debris and privacy is what a woman who is giving birth wants. Some of the windows (below right) are overlooked by windows across the courtyard, so in both of these situations even the tops of the windows need to block the view while letting the light in and sending the curtains packing.

Room 12 - before and after, showing both windows against a pink wall.

Room 12 - before and after, showing both windows against a pink wall.

Room 1 - the curtains are going.

Room 1 - the curtains are going.

Room 27 - bed very close to the window, glow of light through the pale colours.

Room 27 - bed very close to the window, glow of light through the pale colours.

Working with digitally printed vinyl throws up its own surprises, obviously different from glass painting but with lots of qualities that translate across the two media. Room 25 gave me a shock similar to the one I get on opening the kiln and seeing that a coloured enamel has done its own thing, different from the sample. Often this oddity makes the work more interesting. So Room 25 with its block of luminous pink ended up being my favourite - the success of works like these is dependent on the colour combinations and I think that I’ve got that part right here.

Room 25

Room 25

Approach corridor by Sasha Ward

Vinyl/glass/vinyl window at Manchester Children’s Hospital: 1800 mm square.

Vinyl/glass/vinyl window at Manchester Children’s Hospital: 1800 mm square.

Sunburst was not the title intended for the piece I have just installed in a white corridor leading to the paediatric mortuary at Manchester Children’s Hospital. However in the record breaking February sunshine this week and framed by the corrugated sides of the hospital building outside, it glows like a gentle star. As you can see in the photo below left, dramatic shadows and colours are cast on to the floor - surely the best thing about stained glass. Evidently I hadn’t dared imagine the effect would be so good as the collage of my design on to the photo of the space shows (below right).

Left: Feature window at the entrance to the paediatric mortuary. Right: Photomontage of the same space.

Left: Feature window at the entrance to the paediatric mortuary. Right: Photomontage of the same space.

This feature window is part of a commission for artworks in the series of rooms that make up the mortuary. It was almost two years ago when I designed the work following consultation with staff and bereaved families and to a brief that asked for the artwork to be abstract, with no representational imagery and using gentle colours and shapes. Last month I wrote about the colour scheme and the door vision panels; there will be more on the wall designs (digitally printed wallpaper), wall panels and viewing windows when the new furniture arrives to complete the rooms later on.

Below is a page of sketches showing the development of the design for the feature window. I was concerned about working with - rather than fighting against - the horizontal bars and not blocking the wonderful view.

12 sketches showing development of the design

12 sketches showing development of the design

Window detail: vinyl on the left in this picture.

Window detail: vinyl on the left in this picture.

The feature window is made up of a hefty piece of laminated and toughened printed glass (2500 x 780 x 17mm) flanked by two pieces of printed transparent vinyl applied to the surface of the existing window. I hadn’t tried this combination up against each other before, and was apprehensive that the colours on the vinyl would look weak against the sparkling enamels on the glass. But they compliment each other well, the white/shadows are just as strong, and the pattern cast on the floor is colourful but subtle.

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November Afternoon Light by Sasha Ward

In the Church of the Holy Name of Jesus in Manchester on a November afternoon there was hardly enough light to see the colours and details in your average stained glass window. Instead, I was drawn to the most simple windows with glittering gold borders and some views of the world outside, including eye catching interaction with a huge tree.

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Oxford Road, Manchester.

Church of the Holy Name of Jesus, Oxford Road, Manchester.

As I was leaving, the light caught a small window (below) and showed off the different textures in the many types of white glass used. There is a fabulous pattern made by a staircase outside, together with the contrasting straight and loopy leading this makes a perfect composition in my eyes.

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Across the road and wandering around the University buildings, I was drawn to this decorative door and fanlight, where the glazing bars look like a sketch of something impractical, getting towards the loopy without quite making it. There is a huge amount of effort on display in the woodwork and the glass cutting, but the georgian wired panel at top right didn’t like what it was asked to do and broke at some stage.

The windows in Whitworth Hall are lovely decorative things. Natural and geometric forms in sympathetic neutral colours, as the lights come on inside the effect is a stunning display of pattern making that fits so well with the neo gothic building (Alfred Waterhouse 1902).

Leaded lights in Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester

Leaded lights in Whitworth Hall, University of Manchester

Directly opposite, mounted on the Williamson building, the low light illuminated “Manchester Sun” by Lynn Chadwick. This is a beautiful sculpture, contemporary with the building and another great example of art in public places.

Lynn Chadwick’s Manchester Sun on the Williamson Building, University of Manchester (1963).

Lynn Chadwick’s Manchester Sun on the Williamson Building, University of Manchester (1963).

Glass Network Questions by Sasha Ward

Today "Glass Network", the quarterly magazine of The Contemporary Glass Society arrived - here is my page. The questions I wrote about in this piece may be familiar to people who work to commission, or to those who have read my posts from Kelmscott Manor when the questions most frequently asked by visitors were spinning in my head.