My photographs do not do this artwork justice!
Artist Anne Petters responded to an earlier act of vandalism of breaking the wonderful etched window by John Hutton in the West Screen in Coventry Cathedral when she was awarded the commission to begin the healing process following the destruction of the window brought to the city. A rock thrown through the window to gain entry to the cathedral smashed the glass beyond repair. Very Revd. John Whitcombe, Dean of Coventry Cathedral, related the devastation and the heartbreaking drama of the sound of the breaking glass. It echoed through the cathedral as it cascaded onto the stone floor, reverberating with magnificent ferocity, as the added acoustic delay prolonged the sound of the crash captured by the closed circuit monitoring
Echoes of the destruction on a larger scale of the old cathedral were prominent in people’s minds. The angel that was lost on that January night 2020 was the Angel of the Eternal Gospel, and as the Dean said while profoundly saddened they were gifted a space “which invited a serious creative intervention”. This projection of a glass shard onto the window space in the West Screen where the Angel stood stands between the ruins and the risen Christ tapestry that dominates the present cathedral. This artwork is a beautiful addition. With thanks to Coventry City of Culture Trust 2021, the Arts Council and Professor Mike Tooby, funders and curator respectively the healing and reconciliation process that Coventry Cathedral is renowned for has begun.
Mike Tooby, curator, originally captivated by the glass Books of Disquiet by Anne Petters and the connection with the Angel holding a book to represent the Eternal Gospel, approached the artist to work with the project. The added connection that Anne was from Dresden, one of the city’s twinned cities and experienced similar devastation in WWII was also pertinent. Petters finds glass inspirational. Its fragile properties contrasted by its strength demonstrated in the magnificent glass West Screen, majestic in its solidity and yet transparent, with the destructive force of one rock thrown and the fine distinction between the two. The nature of glass in, not only its inherent beauty, but also its inherent danger which places a strange dichotomy when broken and thrown away. The shard of glass used in the work was a piece Petters found beautiful and, even more so, when light was refracted through it like a lens and behold…a beautiful pattern of light flies up to the window with an energy that echoes the winged angels in the screen, the gesture of the reflection is a powerful rendition of the essence of the Hutton windows. The eye travels up to the host of angels as the full height of the screen is realised.
Petters enjoys the relationship between something mundane and broken placed in a beautiful context giving new life and resolution to something regarded as worthless. The Dean interprets the scripture of God healing and mending something broken into the narrative; a spiritual interpretation of the work appropriate to its context.
The earlier mentioned Books of Disquiet by Anne Petters, was a starting point for the project and Anne produced a complementary work of a glass book Lichtung-White Drift which is sited by the font in the cathedral a few steps away from the window. This beautiful book of glass that sparkles like sugar looks fragile and pure with an ethereal text shining through the pages. The leaves are dramatically frozen in movement as though an unseen hand is flicking through the pages. Anne claims this speaks of “spiritual fleetingness and the desire to freeze moments in time.”
This is the first artist to consider the effect of the broken window and the relationship with the cathedral and Coventry, and like London’s Fourth Plinth it will be explored by other artists. Broken Angel can be seen until 1st February 2022.
Blasted window shards
Focused light, rising vision
Angel light shines against darkness-
The arc of renewal.