These witty stained glass panels by Mollie Meager are typical of her spontaneous painterly style.
Each of the stained glass panels are only about 8″ (20cm) square, but they are highly worked, using several different processes.
Have a look at the blue one, particularly the left hand. Can you see the light catching the edges of each finger? That’s the result of acid etching.
A wax resist has been painted on and the blue glass etched away with hydrofluoric acid, creating a textural quality that’s difficult to achieve any other way.
Mollie Meager lives in the middle of nowhere, and is (in)famous for the rickety table that she sets up outside for her etching. It’s hair-raising and not recommended anywhere on this site!
Mollie Meager nearly always uses etching and painting, and is a big fan of staining glass with silver nitrate.
These techniques are evident in each of these panels. The silver nitrate – or silver stain – is applied freely on the diagonal, like the sun lighting up the face of each character.
The figures themselves are at one with their surroundings. Look at the decorative background merging with the pattern on the red woman’s dress, for example.
It is only the bold swathe of yellow silver stain that seems to stand out from the visual fabric of the image, suggesting that something from outside their lives is affecting them in some way.
And what about the black stained glass painting?
The black paint is used to delineate form, to accentuate the patterning on the clothing and to suggest a shock of hair outside the frame.
And of course the eyes… not one of the women is looking directly at us.
They seem to be striking almost wistful poses; they could be sad, yearning, resigned. What’s certain is these intimate panels each tell a story that we can only guess at.
Inspiration for Penny Somerville’s stained glass panels nearly always comes from her immediate surroundings.
Whether she’s looking at a compost heap with courgette flowers or a panamoramic view doesn’t seem to matter. She still manages to inject her own exhuberant artistic vision into her subjects.
This colourful stained glass panel is called ‘Worlds End’, and is Penny’s response to the landscape near to Minera in North Wales. I haven’t asked her, but I think she must be on drugs!!
The colours are absolutely amazing, and are the result of an attempt to achieve the vibrant intensity found in mouthblown glass by using coloured enamels and silver nitrate.
The stained panel is fired repeatedly to build up the layers and depth of colour.
In contrast ‘Compost heap’ is one of Penny Somerville’s more traditional art works, with its use of painting, staining and etching.
By using the light/dark dynamic and restricted colour palette, this piece wouldn’t be out of place as a church window – apart from the subject matter of course.
Again, this stained glass panel has been fired many times to reach the depth of colour required without the use of lead.
Aparently, it’s quite large and buckled a few times in the firing but thankfully stayed in one piece.
‘Heat drenched’… what a fantastic title to describe this painted glasswork that fairly drips with summer heat.
I get a sense of lazy buzzing insects, long evenings and a general ripening.
One important element in Penny Somerville’s stained glass art is its close relationship to the spontaneous, lively drawings she makes on location.
I can’t think of another glass artist who manages to translate their initial drawn ideas into stained glass panels quite so successfully.
These stained glass pictures have a striking common denominator. Ladders.
It obviously doesn’t take an art critic to notice that, but what is it all about?
I invited Mark Angus to the art college where I teach, and during a lecture about his recent work, he told us about the significance of these ladders in his work.
He explained that he was interested in the notion of eternal youth, like the characters in ‘The Little Prince’ by Antoine de Saint-Exupery and Peter Pan – those who tried to remain a child forever.
I’m not entirely convinced if I quite understood the concept, but Mark Angus seemed to be saying that these characters were quite often creative types – often misunderstood – and whose feet floated some distance from the ground.
Hovering between earth and heaven appeared to be their position in life.
Hence the ladders, which are an artistic manifestation of the link between these spiritual and secular worlds.
Phew! Now I’ve explained the ladders as well as I’m able, I’d like to point out the fantastic spontaneity of Mark’s approach to stained glass.
He uses etching on handmade flashed glass – here it’s blue on an opal base – and flicks on hot wax for a resist.
The stained glass painting is applied in a similarly free manner, splattered on with a brush.
Down the left side is a strip of lead that divides the pictures by both a change of colour and treatment of form. This is another way Mark Angus emphasises the two different worlds his figures inhabit.
If you like Penny’s work, there’s lots more to be found here. It includes her lively drawings and commissions.
If you like Mark Angus’s style and want to see more, there’s lots more images here. They range from huge commissions to wall lamps.