AS a decision on the region’s joint bid to achieve World Heritage Status for the twin Anglo Saxon Monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow draws closer - an exhibition celebrating an ancient writing technique associated with the site opens to the public.
‘Beyond Traditions’ highlights the skill and precision of both traditional and contemporary calligraphy from a range of cultures at the National Glass Centre (NGC).
The exhibition, running until October 9, features the work of five internationally renowned calligraphers and artists: Professor Ewan Clayton, Dr Manny Ling, Susan Moore, Ayako Tani and Peter Furlonger. Their work spans a range of techniques and materials that include glass lampworking, sandblasted glass, pyrographics, writing on vellum and illuminations.
A skilled and ancient writing practise which translates as ‘beautiful writing’ in Greek, calligraphy in North-East England can be traced back to 7th century Wearmouth-Jarrow.
Centring around NGC’s neighbouring church, St Peter’s, and St Paul's Church, Jarrow, the twin Anglo-Saxon monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow, was in its time one of the greatest scriptoriums and libraries of early medieval Europe. It is possible that the Codex Amiantinus - the oldest Latin version of the Bible was written on this very site on the banks of the River Wear. It has also been suggested that the monastic scholar Venerable Bede studied calligraphy here as a boy.
The NGC, which is part of the University of Sunderland, is just one of the organisations that have come together to make a bid for the twin Anglo-Saxon Monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow to achieve World Heritage Site status in 2011.
If it achieves World Heritage Site status, this incredible site and its inspirational story will receive the world-wide recognition and protection for the future that it deserves, joining the list of landmarks such as the Great Wall of China and the Pyramids.
The University continues the tradition of calligraphy today as it is home to the International Research Centre for Calligraphy where Dr Manny Ling, senior lecturer in design, and his colleagues have made it their mission over the last 11 years to create a hub for the traditional letter-making skill on Wearside.
“Calligraphy has a unique quality which transcends over different cultures, language, zeitgeist and technologies,” said Dr Ling. “This exhibition 'Beyond Traditions' hopes to capture this spirit, exploring both the interpretation of words and language and the use of different materials, techniques and approaches.
“The exhibition also reflects the long historical connection of calligraphy to the region. It is without doubt that long ago, ancient scribes were working amongst the same river and land. They would have felt the same passing of the seasons and the ebb and flow of time as us. It is a continuing cycle which we are part of.
“With anticipation, I hope this exhibition will enliven the minds of the visitors and that calligraphy is more than 'beautiful writing'.”
Dr Ling will also be giving a talk on Thursday, September 29, 5.30-6.30pm.
The talk will centre on Dr Ling’s current work and practise. This event includes his western calligraphy work and a demonstration highlighting the skill and techniques of both traditional and contemporary calligraphy. Both the exhibition and the talk are free.