'Spitfires' HENI Edition


The Spitfires are a series of seventy unique independent artworks in stained glass and ceramic glaze published as an edition by and available from HENI. First exhibited in Summer Solstice Spitfires at HENI Gallery in 2016, works from the series can be found in collections including the Corning Museum of Glass, New York, and the Stained Glass Museum, Ely.

"I think that the most interesting of my Spitfires works is the edition of stained glass panels. The process of firing has made the painting’s reproduction on each panel, its shade and tone, unique. I chose the mouth-blown glass for every clear Spitfire, and some I painted by hand with silver stain, enriching their colour range. Configured with different numbers of black Spitfires and of clear, coloured ones, the transmission of light through the panels is moderated and controlled by the opaque printed cloud and the shapes of the solid black aircraft, giving the transparent planes real life. The shapes are no longer funereal shadows – sensation is turned upside down, the background blocks out the light, and as sunlight passes through them, the stained glass Spitfires transilluminate a varied palette across the physical world.

The idea of using stained glass as a translation of easel painting, rather than embracing its innate characteristics, was often derided as a sort of betrayal of the medium. In the 18th and 19th centuries, painters who took this approach received criticism for it – when I made this edition of works, and the related Lexington Street Spitfires installation, I took this sacrilege a stage further. Using the new technology, I rendered the clouds from my Spitfires oil paintings and digitally printed them in ceramic glaze, which was then fired into the glass onto which the multicoloured stained glass Spitfires are set. When that simulacrum for easel painting (like a canvas, showing every line created by the brush where it was dragged over the weave of the cloth) is broken by a transparent Spitfire, the contrast is stunning. It reconvinced me that nothing is forbidden in the pursuit of visual expression: anything is possible and everything is allowed.

The tormented and tumultuous clouds that they traverse are now penetrated by pure colour: the black, unforgiving sign of destruction transformed into intangible jewels that play across wooden floors, ceramic tiles and furniture, across pets and books and children. The stained glass Spitfires, holding on to their unique heraldry, swim across our view – kissing and alighting a moment here, a moment there; briefly animating everything they touch with magic, casting light across all and everything. Stained glass is the only medium that can do this and it is now clear to me that its secrets are still being teased out: step-by-step the medium reveals itself. Not a static historical art, but alive – here and now." – Brian, in the catalogue Spitfires, published by HENI.