Towards a glass monument (2017 – 19)

Tom Nicholson
born 1973
Stained glass: Geoffrey Wallace
Artist’s assistant: Jamie O’Connell
Design of plaques: Ziga Testen
Stained glass, lead and steel frame in 2 screens, each containing 20 lancets; each screen 495 x 559 cm, 6 cast bronze plaques; each 60 x 90 cm

Realised through Monash Art Projects, Melbourne; Geoffrey Wallace Stained Glass, Melbourne; and courtesy of Milani Gallery, Brisbane

Towards a glass monument comprises two stained glass screens at the northern entrance to the Old Quad. Each screen, housed within a metal frame, presents twenty lancets that would fill the windows of the East Bay and West Bay of the Old Quad. The work is accompanied by six plaques with texts that contextualise the work’s imagery through six narratives, imagining its possible placement into the historical lancets of the Old Quad but, above all, meditating on the act of imagining itself.

The work originated in two remarkable drawings from the early history of the North Wing of the Old Quad. These drawings depict two Mesozoic ferns fossilised in sandstone and were created by artists Arthur Bartholomew and Ludwig Becker. They survive only as lithographs in the publication, Prodromus, by Frederick McCoy. McCoy was one of the University of Melbourne’s first four professors.

The designs for Towards a glass monument are ‘“after’” these drawings, and are a homage to these two artists, to the Prodromus, and to this extraordinary early moment in the history of research and academia for the University. The ferns are visible in the design of the work and are a key point of interest for visitors to the Old Quad. The work is created using hand-blown ‘antique’ glass of Glashütte Lamberts Waldsassen in Germany.