Foreword to the catalogue by Michelle Brown:
The scintillation of illumination has fascinated and inspired for over a millennium. The very term, derived from the Latin ‘to light up' pays tribute to the role played by reflective precious metal surfaces in much handpainted decoration. For visible consumption of costly materials played a part in book decoration almost from its very beginnings, with gold and silver inks on purple-stained pages, or leaves impregnated all over with powdered 'shell' gold gracing some of the earliest Byzantine and Syriac tomes.
Indeed, such lavishness so outraged St Jerome that he warned that those who commissioned them would do better to read the words of Scripture and use their wealth in its
service. Yet the visual and psychological impact of such display proved too potent, and in
the 730s St Boniface would write from the Germanic mission-fields to his friend, Abbess
Eadburh of Minster-in-Thanet in Kent, requesting sacred books penned in gold - which he
sent her for the purpose - to 'wow' the natives. In late 10th century Winchester Godeman
the scribe recorded, in a poem penned in chrysography that opens the Benedictional of St
Æthelwold - one of the great Anglo-Saxon Benedictine reformers - that the bishop had told him to be sure to use plenty of gold and colours, for only Æthelwold would be seen using this resplendent book of blessings, standing beneath the great chancel arch of Winchester's cathedral, as part of the panoply of liturgical theatre - offering a vision of a world to come that was far removed from the earthenware realities of everyday life.
Whether purporting to be in the service of God or man, gilding continued to beguile and delight artists and audiences, surviving the monochrome reign of early print culture to inspire the rekindling of traditional crafts and design principles in the industrial age by facsimilists such as Elizabeth Elstob and J. O. Westwood and artists including William Morris, Edward Burne-Jones, Edward Johnston and Graily Hewitt - master and reviver of the art of gilding.
It is a joy to see that in this delightful, and often playful, exhibition the diverse gilding techniques known to the mediaeval illuminator are being deployed with similar inventiveness across a variety of material surfaces by contemporary artists who cast the illuminating light of gold - with its power to unlock so many human emotions – upon the meaning of words and images. Michelle P. Brown, Professor of Mediaeval Manuscript Studies,
School of Advanced Study, University of London, and CLAS Honoured Fellow
Introduction to the catalogue
All that glisters is not gold,
Often have you heard that told:
Many a man his life hath sold,
But my outside to behold:
Gilded tombs do worms infold.
The three-word selected quotation from Portia's speech in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice was chosen for the title especially for this exciting calligraphy exhibition. It gave members of the Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society (CLAS) the chance to let their imaginations run free.
All that glisters ranges from the traditional combination of gold leaf and colour, as in mediaeval manuscript books, manufactured gold paint and pigments, individual words and/or
background washes in shiny metal, to text which includes the words gold, gilded, golden, sun, sunshine, sunflowers and so much more, as is evident from the pages in this catalogue.
However, it was also an opportunity to interpret words in a much darker way – something that glistens is not necessarily gold, and a shiny glistening outside may hide a multitude of
As always, selection was very difficult as there were so many stunning entries, but gallery
space meant that decisions had to be made and this is the result.
CLAS members are not restricted to working with a broad-edged nib on paper, although their skills with these are evident here. Letters are cut into wood and stone, cast in bronze, and scratched into gold or other textures.
Traditional skills of real gold leaf on raised gesso ground, and powder gold in gum – shell gold - with jewel colours have been brought right up-to-date, and mediaeval scribes and illuminators would be amazed at how the craft skills are now being applied to create artworks
that are a treat for the eye and which lift the spirits.
Contributing artists include:
Barbara Alldred, Cherrell Avery FCLAS, Gemma Black HFCLAS, Josie Brown, Meg Chapman, Pearl de Chalain, Paul Eccles, Sybil Ewin, Diane Goatley, Gaynor Goffe HFCLAS, Marlene Gray FCLAS, Peter Halliday HFCLAS, David Harris HFCLAS, David Howells, Nancy Ouchida Howells HFCLAS, Dee Howley Gibbs FCLAS, Camilla Hughes, Terry Johnson FCLAS, Barbara Jupe, Caroline Keevil, Lin Kerr FCLAS, Celia Kilner HFCLAS, Lida Kindersley HFCLAS, Masumi Kirihata, Jean Larcher HFCLAS, Susie Leiper FCLAS, Linda Lewis, Celia Lister FCLAS, Viva Lloyd, Patricia Lovett HFCLAS, Colin Lumsden, Vivien Lunniss FCLAS, Marion McKenzie FCLAS, Frederick Marns HFCLAS, Jan Mehigan HFCLAS, Margaret Morgan FCLAS, William Morris, Deborah Morton, Lorna Mulligan, Timothy Noad HFCLAS, Mary Noble HFCLAS, Tom Perkins HFCLAS, Jan Pickett HFCLAS, Katharina Pieper HFCLAS, Judith Porch, Alan Quincey HFCLAS, Jan Sambell,
Helen Scholes FCLAS, David Simons, Cathy Stables FCLAS, Margaret Stanley, Annet Stirling HFCLAS, Maureen Sullivan FCLAS, Ruth Sutherland, Sylvia Thomas, David Treagust, Jan Turner, Bas Vlam and Clare Whittaker FCLAS.
FCLAS = Fellow of CLAS, HFCLAS = Honorary Fellow of CLAS, CLAS = Calligraphy and Lettering Arts Society
This is a stunning and inspirational catalogue of exquisite work from some of the world’s top calligraphers – highly recommended.
1st edition, 2012, paperback, 100pp, full colour throughout, 19 x 19cm