Work

Papal Chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature to Great Britain

Apostolic Nunciature of the Holy See, Winkfield Lodge, 54 Parkside Wimbledon, London

2010

In 2010, Brian Clarke was commissioned to design an artwork for the Papal Chapel of the Apostolic Nunciature in London, to mark the 2010 visit of Pope Benedict XVI to the United Kingdom, and commemorate the Beatification of John Henry Newman.

The artwork is a triptych in the form of a three-light stained glass window, on the street-side of Winkfield Lodge, the diplomatic office of the Holy See in Great Britain, which overlooks Wimbledon Common. The Grade II-listed building was designed in 1897 by architect C. W. Stephens. Blessed by Pope Benedict XVI in a private mass, the windows depict three candles on a field of ruby and ultramarine. Benedict XVI's visit was the first time a Pope has visited the UK at the invitation of Her Majesty the Queen.

'For his Papal assignment, Clarke has incorporated texts into the stained-glass window, including a page from Fisher's Sermon Against the Pernicious Doctrine of Martin Luther. There is a letter from More to Cardinal Wolsey about the act of succession in More's own hand. "We scanned the letter and etched his own handwriting over the glass." There's also a printed page from Newman's book An Essay in Aid of a Grammar of Assent. "I like my work to enable the building to function in a way that hopefully tips the balance of the experience from being functional to being inspirational," says Clarke. "I think there is an extremely powerful argument to be made today for art to actually bring beauty and something of the sublime into the banality of mundane experience. So often now, art is limiting of that kind of encounter. I believe people respond to beauty both in nature and in art. When it involves the passage of light, it is uplifting in a way that is incomparable. I left the centre of the flame transparent because the chapel faces due west across Wimbledon Common. And when the sun sets and comes in through those candle flames, the transparency picks up the colour of the sun and it starts to glow itself."' – The Independent, September 2010.

"When I started working in the medium of stained glass, it was a dying art. I knew from a very early age that the future of the medium would only be assured if it had an application in public buildings and was not limited to ecclesiastical architecture. I looked for opportunities in all kinds of public buildings and declined opportunities in the church. I fought for that and continue to fight for that. It's a lifelong pilgrimageChurches only call on me if they want me to do something challenging and exciting. As a consequence, with a long history behind me of substantial secular and public works, I feel now that I can re-engage occasionally, working in the church and giving it my best on a level that it deserves and I demand." – Brian Clarke, 2010