SIX thousand shards of medieval pottery have been used to transform the floor of a York church.
Mosaic designer Emma Biggs and artist and art critic Matthew Collings have arranged the fragments into a contemporary art installation St Mary’s Church, in Castlegate.
Entitled Five Sisters, the mosaic art work has been inspired from the church and the history locked within the 500,000 pieces of glass that make up the 13th century Five Sisters window at York Minster.
“This installation is a way of looking at history,” said Emma and Matthew.
“It is impossible for any work of art to express an idea free from a visual tradition, free from the ideology of the past, and the labour of others. Artists are never the sole creators of their work, and Five Sisters asks you to look at the work of the hands that threw the pots, adhered the handles, applied the glaze and stacked the kiln.
“But you are also seeing the work of the archaeologists who unearthed these ceramic fragments, volunteers who cleaned them, the museum trust that housed them and the taxpayers who funded their preservation.”
Found in the North Transept of York Minster, the Five Sisters Window contains the largest amount of early English grisaille glass in a single window in the world.
Completed in 1260, the window consists of five lancets, each 50ft high by 5ft wide, and contains more than 100,000 pieces of glass.
“Compared with other windows in the Minster, it is noticeably muted,” said Emma and Matthew.
“Individual panes of glass are dissimilar in tone and colour. A pane of glass breaks and someone carefully puts another in its place; centuries of being remade seem to have given Five Sisters a greater visual weight than something conceived from a single unitary viewpoint. Our new Five Sisters at York St Mary’s aims to reorder fragments of historical material in a similar way.”
Roughly the same age as the Five Sisters window in the Minster, the thousands of pieces of broken pots have come from archaeological digs in Yorkshire and are cared for by the York Museums Trust.
Five Sisters will run until November.