In keeping with this week's TORCH Goes Digital theme of Storytelling, the TORCH Heritage Programme is happy to introduce an Oxford-based project, Hidden Objects, with a blog post by the contemporary art curator Lauren Dyer Amazeen about their first event on 'John Piper: Artist In Stained Glass'. The project aims to enable the sharing of Oxford Colleges' collections with a wider audience.
Hidden Objects is a new project supported by an informal group of independent and University curators and researchers based in Oxford with an interest in contemporary art and design.
We are building links with a number of Oxford colleges to explore their collections and to develop, with them, activities and events that focus on particular works in the collection that are perhaps less well known or have become less visible within the contemporary life of the college. The project aims to create four or five events a year in this way, which will adopt differing formats, tailored for distinct, invited audiences – both within and beyond the University – but with the common aim of animating and sharing all the different forms of knowledge embedded in Oxford college collections. An additional aim is to build on and support the tradition, active in some colleges, of commissioning/acquiring contemporary work and to develop active networks of informed supporters for all of the above.
Our first event, which was fully booked, took place last September in partnership with Oxford Universtiy’s Alumni Office, and was part of ‘Meeting Minds in Oxford’, Oxford University’s annual Alumni weekend events programme. It was an expert-led walking tour to Pembroke and Nuffield colleges.
The focus was on the stained glass design work of the artist John Piper (1903-1992) and the event was catalysed following the discovery of a stained glass design drawing for Llandaff Cathedral (1959) by the artist John Piper held in the important Pembroke JCR Art Collection. This interesting drawing catalysed a research visit to the exceptional Nuffield College Chapel completed in 1961 for which Piper not only designed a series of beautiful stained glass windows in collaboration with Patrick Reyntiens but also led on the design for the furniture and overall architectural space. You can read more about its history here.
The chapel is not normally open to non-college members and it is perhaps less widely known than Piper’s work for Coventry Cathedral and Liverpool (or indeed the many examples of his work for Oxfordshire village churches) but it is a rare, important place. The Pembroke JCR Art Collection is also of great interest as it was one of the first Oxford colleges to start the tradition of college junior common rooms collecting contemporary art in 1947 under the guidance of the then Oxford Professor of Fine Art, Kenneth Clark.
The curator of the UK’s only stained glass museum in Ely Cathedral, Dr. Jasmine Allen, provided expert insight into Piper’s work in this area and Pembroke JCR art curator, Tatjana Leboff gave background to the Pembroke JCR collection prior to the visit to Nuffield chapel. Dr. Allen has been Curator at Ely since 2013 following completion of a doctorate on stained glass and the international exhibitions in the nineteenth century at the University of York. She is a Board Member of the Glaziers Trust and an Advisor to the London Stained Glass Repository.
This first Hidden Object Oxford event was possible through the help and advice of many including Tatjana Leboff and Dame Lynne Brindley from Pembroke College and Professor Richard Mayou from Nuffield College and Clare Monaghan, Jenny Wood and their team at the Oxford University Alumni Office.
Lauren Dyer Amazeen, FRSA is a contemporary arts writer, researcher and lecturer. She has written regularly for Artforum International and various critical journals and publications in Sweden, US and the UK. She is a visiting lecturer at MLitt Art Writing programme at Glasgow School of Art, an external PhD supervisor at Edinburgh College of Art and Chair of the Board of Trustees at Cove Park International Artist Residencies. Lauren is one of five curators, researchers forming Hidden Objects Oxford: Amanda Game, independent curator and producer in the field of modern craft; Dr. Oliver Cox, Oxford University Heritage Engagement Fellow; Matthew Winterbottom, Ashmolean Museum curator of Sculpture and Decorative Arts; and James Fordham, Director of Oxford Ceramics Gallery.
To learn more about micro-internships of Oxford students with the Hidden Objects Project see:
Weaving tales of the Green Man: A journey into John Piper’s hidden tapestries
Oxford’s Mortlake 'Supper at Emmaus': A Look into St John’s President’s Lodgings
An 'Opera of Words'
A History of Bookbinding as Told through Oxford College Libraries
Both Artistic Compromise and Artistic Freedom’; The Complicated Context Behind the Inuit Printmaking Tradition
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