Chris Day’s glass sculpture unveiled at Stourbridge Glass Museum
Glass artist Chris Day’s winning artwork ‘After the Darkness, the Light’ was unveiled by auctioneer and TV personality Will Farmer, at the new Stourbridge Glass Museum (SGM) on 26 August 2022, during the International Festival of Glass 2022 celebrations.
To mark the Contemporary Glass Society’s (CGS’s) 25th anniversary, the opening of the Museum and the UN-designated International Year of Glass, CGS and the Museum launched a competition for a jointly-funded a commission that would form part of the permanent collection at the SGM.
The winner of this competition was Chris Day. Talking about the piece he created, Chris explained, “In the late 17th century, an estimated 50,000 Protestant Walloons and Huguenots fled to England, about 10,000 of whom moved on to Ireland. In relative terms, this could be the largest wave of immigration of a single community into Britain ever. The Huguenots left a legacy in the glass industry that represents a positive view of immigrants that enriched Britain’s landscape.
“Unfortunately, today Britain is still impacted by the immigration of people fleeing persecution and war. One of the obstacles faced by these people is the label society has placed on them due to the negative representation of the media and some political bodies. My family was part of the Windrush era and faced the ugly side of racism. I feel that the stigma is now being placed on this new wave of immigrants, instead of seeing the benefit they could bring.
“When I was awarded this commission the warring conflict in the Ukraine wasn’t on the radar, although Afghanistan and Syria were. I wanted to create a piece of work to open a discussion about immigrants and change the dialogue, which, at the time, was extremely negative, given the images of orange dinghies abandoned on the UK coastline. In that instance we forget that these are people – fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers and, more importantly, human beings. In their mother county they may have worked as architects, lawyers, doctors or perhaps, like me, a plumbing engineer. But all that is portrayed is a group of people trying to access a benefit system, instead of the positive benefits they could bring.
“When the war broke out in the Ukraine, like everyone I was shocked by the images, although we have all been subjected to them before, e.g. Syria, Afghanistan, Palestine and various other war conflicts around the world. Over 14 million people have fled their homes since the Russian invasion, with one difference; many counties have welcomed them with open arms and we see flags of support all around the world.
“My question is what’s the difference between Syria and Ukraine? And this is what the work commissioned has developed into from my initial conception. I hope this work will create a healthy conversation regarding immigrants historically and present and give the viewer a chance to reflect on the horrific images we have all been subjected to recently.
“The boat has always been a way of getting to this country throughout history and I have created a sculpture boat, shaped using the copper structure I have developed within my work.
“The colour selection used has been a huge development in my practice and something I am coming to terms with – with the help of sunglasses! The colours used represent the flags of the different counties of people that have migrated to Britain. The copper structure was blown into to create tension in the work, while the bright colours disguise this with their beauty. Other materials also intertwine in the sculpture, such as concrete, rebar, chains and rope, with the purpose of engaging the viewer with layers of conversation.
“It has been an honour to receive this commission and I am extremely thankful to the CGS and SGM for all their support throughout, and especially on this project.”
See his artwork in person at the Stourbridge Glass Museum, Stuart Works, High Street, Stourbridge, DY8 4FB. Website: https://www.stourbridgeglassmuseum.org.uk
Image: Chris Day with his installation ‘‘After the Darkness, the Light’ that was unveiled at the Stourbridge Glass Museum, where it will form part of the permanent collection. Photo: Iain Palmer.