Painting with and through the light
Churches in the Aube region of France hold inestimable cultural treasures, in particular works in stained glass. Starting from 1540, an utterly new aesthetic appeared incorporating just two pigments: grisaille and silver yellow. The polychromy of the Middle Ages was left behind for the apparent sobriety of gray and yellow. The result of numerous influences and exchanges thanks to the region’s location between Flanders and Italy, a previously unseen light began to shine in local churches. Locks of angels, crowns of saints, seraphs’ lutes: subjects were depicted and enhanced at the time by a sublime yellow shimmering gold, although in very small quantities, for its application proved delicate and required minuscule limits to maintain any semblance of form.
The commission I was honored to receive from the city of Nogent-sur-Seine expressly provided for the use of these two colors alone. Together with stained glass master Flavie Vincent-Petit, we soon discovered we would need to invent a way to transcribe the light within these limited parameters. We set out to respect the tradition of our illustrious predecessors and yet innovate enough to achieve a novel result. Our objective was to liberate the silver yellow from its use as a simple accent in the works of earlier eras and allow it to express all its internal force and energy when traversed by daylight. The crazy gamble that demanded so much experimentation was to find a way for the silver yellow to hold its own in space, like a body of light in its own right. It was a joyous discovery for us when, one morning, we opened the oven to find a peaceful, essential, pure breath of energy circulating across our initial tries. The yellow had held the form with only its own internal structure, its latent beauty manifesting across the glass.