(Above) “Waterglass” at Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre. Sarah Hall.
(Above) “Waterglass” at Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre. Sarah Hall.

There’s a line from Dennis Lee I like to savour: “Day after day the light rides easy.” I like the complex riches of this simple line: light as a gift, light as the universe’s prayer to us.  Sarah Hall is an artist of light and in her artistry she enhances and enriches what light does to glass. Light rides easy in her works of painted glass.

Sarah Hall is an internationally celebrated glass artist who has made her mark on her home city of Toronto from the North York General Hospital to the First Unitarian Church on St. Clair Avenue, from Massey College to Harbourfront, in addition to schools, churches, synagogues and public buildings throughout the city. It’s not surprising that the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) would organize a tour to enable people to experience firsthand her visual world of colour and light.

Massey College, University of Toronto: The Wisdom Windows. Sarah Hall.
Massey College, University of Toronto: The Wisdom Windows. Sarah Hall.

The tour includes a lecture about Sarah’s studio in Paderborn Germany, explaining the various techniques involved in modern stained glass work and her recent forays into solar art installations.

If you can go, the bus tour is on Thursday, July 25, from 9am to 5:30pm, with a scrumptious lunch provided. You can buy tickets online from programs@rom.on.ca  or by phoning 416.586.5797 and asking about the Sarah Hall Stained Glass Tour. When you see one Sarah Hall work of art in glass, you want immediately to see another one. The tour enables you to see a considerable number of her sites at a reasonable price.

Now, if you’re not able to take the tour, maybe you and I can wander about a few tantalizing images that will give you a taste of Sarah Hall’s bounty.

Let’s start in North Toronto and head south. As we’re having our mental travel, maybe you want to have The Beatles “Magical Mystery Tour” playing. (If Sarah herself has a say on our musical selection, she’ll have her late friend Oliver Schroer’s Camino way up loud).

The “River of Light” mural in the Chapel of the North York General Hospital gives the viewer the opportunity of quiet and reflection. Sarah has constructed a swath of green glass to convey the idea of light moving like a river across a room, and across our lives. This glass mural has a special place in my heart. The North York General is where my grandson was born and I like to think that his mother and father had a few quiet moments in the presence of the mural.

First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto: Tower by Sarah Hall.
First Unitarian Congregation of Toronto: Tower
by Sarah Hall.

Usually I recommend the morning as the best time to see Sarah Hall’s designs in glass, but for the “Radiance, Reflection, Revelation” tower at the First Unitarian Church on St. Clair Avenue West, I recommend a night viewing.  At night – walking or driving – you’ll see a pillar of light from a distance. As you get closer to the 50` tower, you’ll see a giant strand of spiraling vegetation aflame.  Creation in Sarah Hall’s world burns with life.

From St. Clair Avenue we take a little side-trip off Bloor to the “Wisdom Windows” at Massey College, the University of Toronto.  In Hall’s personal creation story, after the Creator has uttered “Let there be light” and there was light, the next breath was let there be text. Language seems as necessary a part of human life as light, plants and water.

In her fused and painted glass, Hall sandblasts text (words from Hebrew Scriptures and words by scientist Ursula Franklin, all having to do with the nature of light). Commissioned in 2009 by John Fraser, the Master of the College, the windows look like frozen raindrops, dazzling in their colours and textures. For the full beauty of these windows, you want to turn off the artificial lighting and rely on natural light. See them preferably in the morning.

We started our tour in water (“River of Light”). Let’s end there, too (“Waterglass” at Enwave Theatre, Harbourfront Centre).  Across the north face, a 30-meter-long glass mural expresses the moods of Lake Ontario – the movement of waves, spray, mist, water pools—“a reminder of the eternal beauty and unceasing energy of water and light, the essential elements of life.”  With 19 art glass panels and 10 photovoltaic panels (solar collectors), Waterglass is the first solar art glass project in Toronto and a world-first for combining photovoltaics with heat mirror technology in architectural glass. This amazing work of art fuses art with technology and energy-efficiency with aesthetic design.

If you want to see more of Sarah Hall’s designs in glass, go to her website – www.sarahhallstudio.com.  Light rides easy and beautiful and spiritual in her work.

– J.S. Porter