Work

Lavers and Barraud Building, Covent Garden

22 Endell Street, Covent Garden

1981

In 1981, Brian was commissioned by the Crafts Council of Great Britain to design and fabricate a stained glass artwork for Grade II-listed Jewell and Withers Building at 22 Endell Street in Covent Garden. Located on the corner of Endell Street and Betterton Street, the early Gothic Revival polychrome brick building was the former location of the Lavers and Barraud stained glass studio, designed by Jewell and Withers in 1859 for the notable glassworks. Clarke's modern stained glass gable window, on the Betterton Street elevation and viewable from much of Endell Street, fills what was the 19th century workshop's viewing window, and was designed to be as striking by daylight viewed from outside – through its use of sculptural leading and opalescent glass – as from within, and to have a nocturnal presense, like a colourful beacon, when lit internally at night.

"The brief was to re-glaze the tripartite upper floor window in a polychrome Ruskinian Gothic building in Covent Garden, erected in 1860 as the workshop on the glass-painters, Lavers & Barraud. The building was refurbished as offices, and Clarke imagined the former studio window as perhaps having once displayed a three-light window intended for a church; he reasoned that Lavers & Barraud would probably have broken down such a design into small subject panels set on a ground of densely saturated colour in foliate patterns. While respecting the architectonic demands of the given context, Clarke, with considerable trans-historical acumen for someone still in his twenties, deconstrcuted the narrative and figural associations of the notional High Victorian 'original', stripped the background of ornament, and substituted white opalescent glass, subtly streaked with pale blue, for its ten notional scriptural episodes. Thus, in a Postmodern, teleological master-stroke, each 'medallion' was transmuted unto a kind of palimpseset, equivalent to the white-washed tables on which medieval glaziers drew out their designs." – art historian Martin Harrison writing in The Journal of Stained Glass, 2005.

"In place of biblical scenes in his 'medallions' Clarke reverses the historical precedent by making the ten rectangular 'medallions' the negative passages in his design. Against a deep blue background and set off by ruby borders (a colour scheme which, in ironically quoting one of their conventions, makes humorous reference to the building's Victorian occupants), the only incidents the 'medallions' frame are the pale blue streaks inherent in the texture of their white opalescent glass. As he has often stated, colour and line can be as eloquent as the human figure." – Martin Harrison in the essay 'Eloquence from Intractability', from the monograph Brian Clarke: Architectural Artist.