Last week I went down to St Mary’s church in Wivenhoe, Essex where I used to live, to visit the freshly installed window which I made last year in Dumfries. It has been a long journey in more ways than one and the boat seems to symbolise the epic process of making the window. Starting from a conversation with the artist James Dodds in a gallery in Wivenhoe about six years ago, the project has gone through many stages involving many groups and I had decided I couldn’t do it after we moved up to Scotland in September 2020. However, the project followed me here and I found myself agreeing to be involved again in early 2021. In the meantime Jamie had been getting on with the basic design during the lockdown of 2020 and it arose like a phoenix ready to be realised in glass…
We met in my studio in Dumfries on 17th May 2021, the first day of release from that lockdown and went over the cartoon, working out the best way to approach things. Then came the final obstacle – the builders had not yet made the steel armature needed to secure the ten panels! This took a further two months before I could finally get on with making it. With help from a friend on one of the panels, it was finally finished on 30th December 2021.
Discussing the cartoon with Jamie
The annex window was divided into ten panels for stability and strength of architectural design
Overall there are around 500 pieces of glass across the whole window, with great variation in size. Details have been painted with iron oxide and coloured enamels (the olive branch)
The small clinker boat is a type that would have been built locally, a type that James helped build when he was an apprentice boatbuilder. The boat has come to signify many things to him. He says “the boat is a vessel that carries my artistic ideas. For the refugee a boat can represent a way to be carried to safety. For a religious person a boat can represent a place of worship and salvation.”
The Holy Spirit is often represented as a dove. In the famous paintings by Piero della Francesca and Leonardo Da Vinci of the Baptism of Christ the dove flies straight down from the heavens. The dove is also a symbol of peace, with its olive branch it offers Noah hope when adrift in the great flood. The Ark is a sanctuary in the turbulent seas. The boat is an ancient symbol for the Church and still resonates. The word Nave comes from the Latin Navis for ship, the word we use for the central portion of a the church.
“Dove and Blue Boat” is an updated and very topical version of an ark – a sanctuary in troubled times – with the biblical dove bearing an olive branch of peace from out of the sun. James says he likes to think the window depicting a small vernacular blue boat and dove represents love, community, hope and salvation, from the hardship and anxieties of climate change, pandemic and war. It has been a privilege to be involved with this project.
- some words quoted from st mary’s press release