Art in the Sanctuary

The Stained Glass Windows

by the artist Patricia Clifford

 

In the beginning..

I first saw the Sanctuary when it was being built, There were seven windows, including the Ark doors. This suggested to me the seven days of the creation. The Sanctuary was a new building - a new beginning. The simple lines and geometric shapes within the building would allow me to introduce vigorous curves of line and colour, breaking the regularity of the beautiful stonework and the grid like window frames. I decided quite early on to employ the use of mostly primary colours because I wanted the windows to vibrate a freshness I associated with the beginning.

With the colours in mind, I then began to think about the lead work. The central idea of the creation suggests flowing movement and tremendous energy. From the Ark, the centre and the light, a sign of God's eternal presence, the lead work would radiate light outwards throughout all the windows.

The windows are not arranged in a strict sequential order but are ordered in terms of symmetry and colour contrast.

"Life is what creates contrast, without which art would be unimaginable and incomplete" - Marc Chagall

On either side of the Ark we have the "Day and Night" windows. In the "Day" window a bird rises from the earth, transcending physical existence, towards God’s light. The commandments restore mankind's union with the divine. I wanted this window to convey the sense or joy in this.

“For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching is the light’.

 

In contrast, in the "Night" window, the moon shines with the stars, as does the Menorah, to light up the darkness.

"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light”

With the next pair of windows radiating outwards from the "Day and Night" we have:

"The Separation of Land and Water” and "The Tree of life". The mood of these windows is quite different. The blue window is meditative. The fish rising from the depths, symbolises the surfacing towards creation, unconsciousness, from water to land. The window allows the viewer to participate in a kind of birth.

The red window is full of vitality encompassing all the qualities of life. The symbols within this window depict the law, the fruits of wisdom, growth, love and nurturing. The Tree of Life is to be lived, it represents the core of existence, fixed at the centre of every individual's life. This window expresses not only the human predicament but also the celebration and unity of life.

"It is a tree to those who hold it fast, and those who cling to it are rendered happy. Its ways are of pleasantness, and all its paths are peace"

"To make known to mankind your mighty acts, and the glorious splendour of your kingdom".

The first window one sees when entering the Synagogue (back left) is the window that sets the narrative for all the windows; God's declaration, "Let there be light".

“Let there be light", separates the light from darkness. It is the profound moment when light comes into being, by divine will and guidance. This window is a celebration of that moment; the beginning of both the physical and spiritual aspects and of the oneness of the divine creation.

The window celebrates the emanation and the expansion of that light; its active vital force. In gradated rich reds and yellows at the top of the window, it powerfully breaks through the darkness, of the still ultramarine blues. Further down the window, the light illuminates the dark blues and the rich yellows into pale hues, harmonising the primordial light, which vibrates in the transparency of the clear reamy glass. The rich reds now are softened, but suggest continuation as they touch the edges of the cosmic blue corners, at the bottom of the window, which are also punctuated with red accents.

The circles in the window suggest light revealing form, movement and cyclic renewal, the total of all possibilities. Throughout the window the red ribbon shapes exemplify, the divine life force. Their natural rhythms are echoed in all of the windows, but this window is the source.

The important lead-work again orchestrates the great tensions of light and dark and harmonises the colour transitions. As well as holding back the darkest blues they unfold and unwind the light, allowing its passage throughout the entire window suggesting the continuation of limitless light.

"Gifts to the Jewish People"- This window is also about beginnings and celebrates the Sinai covenant with God. The familiar symbols signify God's presence and teachings, these being the spiritual gifts, crossing all of time.

At the top of the window surrounded by deep ultramarine and cobalt blues, the hand of God cradles and illuminates the world in divine light.

"You open your hand and satisfy the needs of every living creature"

 This luminous light sweeps downwards and across, expanding on both sides of the window. The curvilinear leading guides the subtle colour transitions from graduated blues, pale yellows to rich amber, towards the Rod of Moses and the Tablets of The Law, together with the Star of David.

The three Symbols sit in a rich landscape of reds to ambers. Red edged hills softened by pale yellows, support the Rod of Moses and The Tablets of The Law, above and each side of the Burning Bush. The two symbols are painted with shaded areas, adding definition imparting a rich intensity. The Star of David shines in centre window placed in both the heavens and in the landscape.

Below the Star of David, where the main leads cross and then part, there is a clearing of special light which surrounds the Burning Bush. The amber and the red edged hills slope and fade into this light. On either side of the Burning Bush the brilliant, blazing reds frame the light clearing and ignite the Bush, symbolizing God's revelations to Moses and to all Jewish people.

The intense red of the flames reaches upwards and gently links with the red of the sloping hills. They carry the eye up through the window, back to the Commandments and to the Rod of Moses. The commandments restore humanity’s union with the divine, as does the Rod of Moses, which signifies physical and spiritual freedom.

The journey that Moses made in obedience has travelled through time and with it the gifts of Jewish life.

 

These two windows contrast with each other as do the windows: "The Separation of Land" and "The Tree of Life". The windows "Let there be light" and the "Separation of Land and Water" are both meditative in that they are viewed conceptually as a whole. "The Tree of Life" and the "Gifts to the Jewish People" are more symbolic and evoke thoughts on individual but linked symbolic elements within the whole.

 

The leading is mirrored in both pairs of contrasting windows, and is an integral part of creating a unifying fluidity in both subject and composition, by harmonising the contrasts and the colour transitions.

 

The materials used in the windows, are of the finest quality. The majority of the glass is an antique, mouth blown glass called streaky. I have used this glass because it has a lot of movement, as can be seen in the blue window, around the fish. In the red window I have used another kind of antique called, flashed glass. This glass has enabled me to acid back a top colour, to reveal base colour underneath i.e. top colour red to reveal base colour yellow. This meant that I could make colour changes in the windows without the use of lead.

The lead work throughout the windows, orchestrate the colour changes and create a feeling of fluidity and harmony. For example, the red ribbons represent the essence of life, which are threaded throughout the windows, underlining the essential oneness of creation and the dependence of all creatures on God.

The work is now finished; making these windows has been a great privilege and I offer a heartfelt thank you to the Southgate Community.

The Torah Mantles

by the artist and member Sheila Dainow

 

The project to design a set of new Torah Mantles for the Synagogue came about as part of a two-year "HNC in Public Art" course at Barnet College during 1998-2000. The course required evidence of negotiating a commission, research, setting objectives, producing designs and assessment. My project was to create a set of acceptable designs and make up half-size models, for exhibition in the Synagogue.

My starting point was the design of the stained-glass windows. designed by Patricia Clifford and already installed in the Synagogue. The scroll covers are visible from the Ark windows which are leaded with plain glass. I wanted the covers to reflect the colours and shapes of the four coloured windows which flank the Ark.

The inspiration for the cover designs comes from the story of the Creation in Genesis which is also, as Patricia Clifford explains, the central idea for the windows.

With the colours and shapes of the windows in mind, I chose blue and red velvet as the backgrounds for the mantles. There are two of blue and two of red to echo the blue and red backgrounds of the windows. I collected other fabrics to make up the designs. All the fabrics are natural; silk, cotton, leather. The threads are of silk, cotton and metal and beads are of glass and metal.

Each mantle represents a verse from Genesis.

 

THE FIRST DAY: ‘And God divided the light from the darkness' Genesis 1.1.

This scroll is a Czech scroll saved from the Holocaust and I felt that the design should respect this history. In the story of the creation there is a place for darkness and light. God does not create the light to destroy the darkness but divides one from the other. This scroll was saved from a time of darkness and its constant presence provides testimony for the past and inspires hope for the future. This scroll cover shows the light at the top of the cover reaching out enlightening the darkness at the bottom.

 

THE THIRD DAY: ‘And God said: ‘Let the water under the heaven be gathered together unto one place and let the dry land appear’ Genesis 1.9

This cover depicts the third day of creation when, after the creation of the heavens, God calls dry earth into being. Blue and silver silks and satins flow through the design, revealing more textured heavier fabrics of brown, green and gold representing the division of water from land.

 

THE THIRD DAY: ‘And God said Let the earth put forth grass, herb yielding seed and fruit trees bearing fruit after its kind’ Genesis 1.11

God's next act was to bring forth vegetation which would in time become food for human and beast. The design uses fabrics of differing textures to symbolise grasses and herbs. Seeds are represented by metallised beads; an ear of wheat and various fruits are also important elements of the design.

 

THE SEVENTH DAY: ‘And on the seventh day God rested from all the work of creation’. Genesis II.2

This cover symbolises the seventh day of the creation when God rested. This is the Shabbat cover with the tree of life within a circle of gold and a circle of leaves. The circles represent the idea of completion; this was the day when God finished the work of creation. The tree of life is a potent symbol of the elements of life. It has roots linked to and drawing nourishment from the past; the trunk stands firmly in the present supporting its branches as they reach into the future. This is a more contemplative design than the other three. The energy necessary for the creative acts has been used and the seventh day is one of rest.

 

I felt very honoured to be asked to make up the designs which I produced as half-size models for the college diploma course (which by the way I passed!) It has been a pleasure to develop the designs and practise the skills which I have been learning while studying. I hope very much that the Torah Mantles will give people the same pleasure and delight I experienced while making them.

 

Thank you for the opportunity.

The Memorial Tree

The Memorial Tree was commissioned by the Synagogue in July 1993.

It was beautifully carved by Phil Griffiths a retired woodwork teacher and ex-colleague of our then president Hilda Schindler ז״ל.

It is sited on the side wall at the rear of the Synagogue where congregants may wish to sit in peaceful meditation before or after a service. You will notice the branches form the Hebrew word שׁלום – meaning, peace.

There over 700 leaves. Members of the Synagogue can apply to have a brass effect plaque engraved with the name and dates of birth and death of one of their relatives who has died. In this way members can dedicate a memorial to their loved-ones in a place frequently visited and in a tasteful and fitting manner.

The "stones" surrounding the base of the tree are dedicated to the memory of those special people who devoted so much of their time to the life of the Synagogue.

The sanctuary was designed by Michael Brod and Associates and consecrated in 1989, following some 15 years of planning and building. The chairman of the planning committee was Jeremy Jessel ז״ל and the members of his committee were Tony Clayden, Sue Jessel, Carolyn Whycer ז״ל & Jon Whycer, with professional advice from Rodney White and Lionel Zacks ז״ל.

The windows around the bima were installed in 1990 and the two windows at the back of the Synagogue in 2001, both with the assistance of Alan Coe.