Tre: a window for Cornwall

The artwork Tre, by Abigail Reynolds, is in the large library window at Kresen Kernow. It was commissioned in 2021 to celebrate and commemorate the return to Cornwall of historic Cornish language manuscripts, including The Cornish Ordinalia, for temporary exhibitions at Kresen Kernow. The commission explored ideas of home and homecoming, and what it means to be at home in Cornwall today. It took inspiration from historic manuscripts, people’s stories, and the local landscape and features green roundels of glass handmade from Cornish sand. You can watch a film about the glass being made here. The Dehwelans project, which resulted in the commission, was funded through Arts Council England and the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the artwork was unveiled on March 5 2022. Watch a film of the launch events here.

Here, Abigail describes Tre:

“This artwork celebrates the temporary homecoming of a small number of historic Cornish manuscripts. The best known of these is The Cornish Ordinalia, a cycle of plays telling stories from the Bible.

The window depicts a scene when Adam’s son Seth arrives at the gates of the Garden of Eden. He sees the Tree of Knowledge, foreshadowing the wood of the cross on which Christ is crucified. Seth’s tale is intriguing because usually Paradise is forbidden, symbolising a state of bliss we cannot return to. This hopeful story can be interpreted in many ways. At its heart, Seth’s story is redemptive and speaks of the possibility of returning home. I chose the title Tre as it is the Cornish word for homestead, which survives in so many place names.

The symbolic homecoming in the Ordinalia reminds us of the continuity of stories embedded in the Cornish landscape, still seen in stone circles, playing places (plenys an gwari) and prehistoric structures. Our interpretation of the landscape forms is plural and changes with time.

The images in the window are disrupted by green glass roundels. These have been made from sand and seaweed collected from Cornish beaches: if you look through them, you are looking at Cornwall through the lens of itself.

The Ordinalia stories symbolically revolve around a tree, and the tree in the window is episodic, created from many fragments of real and imagined trees. It is symbolic of our networked life, reminding us of the natural world in this moment of climate crisis. The tree is at once a reference to symbology and ritual, to ecology and growth.”

Watch Abigail in conversation about the artwork with Richard Ovenden, Bodley’s Librarian in the University of Oxford, here.

Watch Abigail in conversation about the artwork with Sir Nick Serota, Chair of Arts Council England, here.

You can watch her talk about the ideas for the commission here (recorded August 2021).