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Worcester Artist Commissioned to Create Banners for Cathedral Window Restoration

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Huge, striking banners, designed by a University of Worcester graduate have been hung in Worcester Cathedral to mask restoration work being under taken to the East Window.

Mark Daffin was commissioned by the Cathedral to provide stunning artwork that would be sensitive and appropriate to the space, while this important, but disruptive work is taking place.

The project to restore the Great East Window commenced just before Easter when the upper five lights were carefully removed to a studio at Holy Well glass for conservation.

Mark, a printmaker, was selected as his style and method of working would meet the requirement for bold, clear images in the situation in which they would be viewed.

“The distinct identity of the imagery is a result of the linocut relief printing technique employed and it is reminiscent of the traditional crafts that created the Cathedral,” he said. “Before designing the images, I spent some time in the Cathedral studying the beautiful stained glass windows. I was motivated to create prints in my style and media that sympathetically worked alongside the windows and fitted in with the stunning architecture of the Cathedral.”

The Dean of Worcester Cathedral, The Very Revd Dr Peter Atkinson, said: “I am delighted by Mark Daffin’s powerful images of the three saints specially celebrated by the Cathedral: the Blessed Virgin Mary, St Oswald, and St Wulfstan. They give a new focal point for prayer and reflection in the east end of the Cathedral, until the stained glass windows are back in place. This has been a great piece of collaboration between the Cathedral and the University.”

Mark developed his craft while he was a student on the University of Worcester’s Masters’ degree in Creative Digital Media, which he joined after completing a BA in Illustration at the University.
The final prints were scanned and digitally processed for the printing stage for the banners at the Digital Arts Centre at the University.

David James, Subject Leader in Digital Arts at the University, and Mark’s course leader on the Masters programme, said: “The commission originated from the close and productive collaboration that exists between the Cathedral and the University. The beautiful resulting images are an example of how such proactive and positive cooperation results in work of distinction that serves the community in the city and its region.

“This project conforms to the long tradition of the Church as a patron of the arts, a provider of artistic inspiration from before the medieval period. Nourished creatively and academically by his experiences on the Master’s course, Mark has evolved a very distinct artistic identity. As one of our graduates, we are very proud of what he is achieving.”

Mark undertakes commissions. His contact e-mail is Mark.daffin@btinternet.com

Information about the designs:
There are three subjects, all of which are associated with the Cathedral. As the location is the Lady Chapel, the centrepiece of the triptych is Mary. On either side of her are St Oswald and St Wuflstan, their heads bowed in reverence and worship. Mary's halo envelops a crown to symbolise her position as queen of the heaven and the angels. This halo is the most elaborate of the three to represent her identity as the mother of Christ. The lily at her feet represents her seven sorrows and its symbolic links to purity, chastity and virtue.

To the left of Mary stands St Oswald of Worcester. He holds a large bible in one hand. This not only symbolises his devotion to the faith but is also a reference the magnificent bible that he gifted to Ramsey Abbey, which he was founded. In his other hand, he holds a stonemason’s hammer: this symbolises his building of a cathedral on this site in 983, to which he established and attached another monastery. The three pears at his feet are a direct reference to the charges on the coat of arms of the City of Worcester.

To the right stands St Wulfstan who became Bishop of Worcester in 1062. The broken shackles that he holds are a reference to his opposition against the slave trade in Bristol, which was then part of his diocese. As a result of Wulfstan’s impassioned sermons against the trade, many slaves were released. During his time as Bishop, Wulfstan cared for the poor, and struggled to alleviate the harsh decrees of the Normans upon the vanquished English. At his feet stands a goose. This refers to a story in which St Wulfstan was distracted from his prayers during mass by the aroma of roasting goose emanating from the cloisters. Wulfstan was so upset by this distraction from his prayer that he renounced all meat and became a vegetarian.

Information about Mark’s technique:
Describing his technique, Mark said: “The process starts with rough sketches; as with most illustrative practises, the lines are then refined with a paintbrush and ink or a brush pen. This initial stage defines shape and quality of line and all of the details and nuances are added during carving. The image is either drawn directly onto the wood block or linoleum, or drawn on paper first and then transferred to the block. The next stage involves carving out all of the negative space, so that only the image remains in relief. This stage is the most enjoyable and rewarding for me. Once the block is finished, oil or water based relief ink is then rolled on to the block, paper is placed upon the block and the paper and block are placed between two boards and pressed through a printing press.”