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Autobiographical Writings

By Anthony de Jong Cleyndert

Ten years ago Anthony took part in a writing course when he wrote and recorded a brief but insightful autobiography. This recording is published below:


Copyright Anthony de Jong Cleyndert 2012

An Introduction to Glass Works

By Anthony de Jong Cleyndert
Since my early works were conceived in a linear way and are concerned with landscape and architectural space, I have been looking for a definition of painting on glass, and I find Martin Heidegger’s theories from Greek philosophy relevant to me. The Greeks talked of places cleared or freed for settlement and lodging; a space is therefore something which has been made room for, something that is “cleared and freed”, namely within a boundary. This boundary is not something at which space stops, but something from which space begins. The horizon is the boundary creating a space that is let into light.
When I began making glass I had no knowledge of the process. In an attempt to make a convincing image it seemed to me that I had to relearn picture making in a different medium. Looking back I realised that I had worked very loosely as a painter, and it became obvious on starting glass work that the image had to be made step by step. Whereas painting for me had become a familiar and intuitive process, the method of glass making was one step removed involving technique. The glass began to succeed where the intuition and the technique were working together.
This first series of works are based on the place in Norfolk where I grew up. This way of building an image began to absorb my interest, and I began to be able to concentrate on pursuing a concept of space in the image, using basic stencilling techniques.
I started in the earlier glass, by making a drawing onto the screen to establish the image. Looking back, this drawing was strongly in perspective. In subsequent stages of the glass I used acid etching.
The images I have made have been drawn from familiar architectural and landscape views, views from my window, and walks I take where I won’t be disturbed. I was drawn to glass making, as the technique offered a very immediate method of using colour. Just as I had been able to make a painting swiftly, in glass making the image could be made quickly too.
I felt I must always hold true to what the original view gave me, and the drawing I made of that view. This has come to interest me, as although I felt I could be freely inventive with that original drawing on the screen, a change of emphasis in producing a glass began to develop.
Whereas, as I have shown a coloured perspective was all that I could produce early on, I began to develop the colour in a way that the image was not so recognisable using acid etching. Technically, the colour was not confined to specific areas in the drawing, but existed independently. Colour developed in this way from the naturalistic to abstract.
In some works colour began to breakdown the confines of a drawing. Where a plane could have been denoted by one colour, another colour was etched. Colour existed in its own right, and though true to the original view, the image was semi abstract. In later glass the linear perspective is lost, and colour is directly etched onto the glass in the early stages, and therefore more abstract shapes arise. The glass making becomes more intuitive, though no less true to the experience of drawing from the view.
Many issues in art I have found to be taken for granted, and I feel basic problems in making an image are left undiscussed. Since making architectural drawings as a child, I never questioned the use of perspective that had come naturally to me. I used perspective to make the drawing real, and years later I questioned this reality when I needed to express a deeper consciousness of life. Living in Florence for a year, the element of the spiritual in Art came upon me with a great impact. Some time later I felt an affinity with Blake’s views of the fallen man; the subdivision of the original innocent man into the individual elements that make up his being. These ideas echoed in me the striving for understanding and harmony, to overcome the conflict and incompleteness of our looking.
In simple language, Frank Stella in his book “Working Space”, discusses a Vermeer painting, suggesting Vermeer was the only one “to realise that painting has to come to terms with what it cannot see, even though it fears this confrontation. Our first reaction after pulling back the curtain at the edge of the painting is one of delight. We feel first the miraculously lit, encapsulated space will endure, that it will drift along with us, accompanying our collective spectating consciousness, until we cease to exist. We have the sense of invading a private moment as we enter Vermeer‘s painting, but soon the sense of penetrating detail, the sense of a tapestry unravelling in our hands, suggests that this private moment is merely everyone’s accommodation to passing time”.
The most significant development in my work has been the development from figurative to abstract: a development from naturalistic form and colour to abstract shape and colour. Leonardo da Vinci writes about “making the perspective of the colours, so that it is not at variance with the size of any object, that is, that the colours lose part of their nature, in proportion as the bodies of different distances suffer loss of their natural quantity”. It is this scientific language of space and colour which I have sought to understand and thereby free myself of. In the earlier prints of the place where I grew up in Norfolk, perspective is used most strongly. Perhaps these works are most strongly recognised as “views”, and have a sort of completeness. They are unsatisfying to me for two reasons. Perspective is a universal language, and in that sense is an impersonal language. In these early works the division of space is depicted by foreground, middle ground (the subject) and background. In the series of glass I made of Widford, this division begins to disintegrate. Flat areas and shapes (or planes) of colours are screened onto the glass. The image becomes less easy to read, and space in terms of perspective begins to change. What I have said about time (in relation to perspective and depicting appearances rather than deeper reality) begins to change too. Areas of colour interact with each other in an abstract way.
Later, the original perspective format has dramatically altered. Perhaps it is an artistic solution, but there is no obvious foreground, middle ground, and background. The movement and sense of exploring a place becomes translated in the glass, by the movement and interaction of the colours themselves. The glass might have more relation to harmony in music, rather than the original subject, though I have kept to the essence of the drawing I made.
In an earlier image transcribed from a painting by Beato Angelico, the subject of the glass, a harbour scene, has been translated in the screen print as flat forms in isolation, with no intentional spatial structure, and I feel his work paved the way for a transition from perspective to abstract space. The issue of space becomes an issue of subject too, since in the whole development of my glass, the subject has always been very important, and all I have produced is from the subject, in terms of light and colour. Although no formal analysis of colour is made here, Heidegger‘s theories of drawing are true to my own intuition. I feel the play of light relates directly to the colour, and light becomes the solid and the void; the surface and the atmosphere.
In 2005 Anthony met the lead artist David Melia and collaborated on the Harlow window and several other commissions including a memorial panel to his father. David also collaborated on a series of exhibition panels. Leading is really the skeleton of stained glass and David understood the lead as form in the glass.
These images reinforce my belief of the experience of looking. Mood plays an important part; the form is realised in the creating of the glass. Space is pursued and experienced a kind of catharsis, freeing myself of the confines of perspective drawing.