22 October 2023

An Irish sculptor’s
‘Fountain Pen’ expresses
the history of research
and learning in Oxford

‘Fountain Pen’ (2019) is a striking public sculpture by Michael Craig-Martin in the Jericho area in Oxford (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

Michael Craig-Martin’s sculpture ‘Fountain Pen’ (2019) is a striking work of public art on Walton Street in the Jericho area in Oxford, in front of the Blavatnik School of Government and facing the Oxford University Press.

The public sculpture is a vivid magenta in colour and balances strikingly on the single point of the nib of a pen. It is intended to express the unique history of research and learning in Oxford. It was commissioned by the Blavatnik School of Government to celebrate the University of Oxford’s Radcliffe Observatory Quarter, where the school is based, and as a striking addition to the local environment.

When ‘Fountain Pen’ was unveiled, Michael Craig-Martin said the sculpture was the tallest, heaviest and ‘most daring’ sculpture he has ever produced.

‘The fountain pen is one of those few objects that is old fashioned, it refers to the past, but it is also a current object,’ the artist said. ‘We still sign documents with fountain pens, there’s a grandeur to it. Whenever the American president signs a bill, he always gives away a lot of fountain pens.’

The work has been installed in Jericho, a largely residential suburb. ‘It’s right on the border between the university and the rest of the city, so it has meaning in relation to the university, but it also has meaning to school kids,’ the artist said. ‘It’s not an image that is exclusive – it’s accessible to all.’

Michael Craig-Martin created ‘Fountain Pen’ during the lockdown. At the time, many sculptors were facing problems with the supply of materials and access to studios, yet it was only delayed by six months.

Craig-Martin says his ‘Fountain Pen’, which is five metres-tall, was ‘technically challenging.’ It is balanced on the nib, and he had to double the thickness of the galvanised steel, from 25 mm to 50 mm, so that the sculpture can withstand its public surroundings.

As he puts it: ‘Previously, I have made sculptures for people’s properties or gardens, or, if they are in a public space, they are not there for long. Whereas this really is a permanent work, so it’s much grander and much heavier than any sculpture I’ve ever done before.’

Michael Craig-Martin’s works of sculpture have a powerful visual impact and relationship to their surroundings, and ‘Fountain Pen’ echoes the circularity of the Blavatnik School building and its notable banding, designed by Herzog and DeMeuron.

The modern, bold aesthetic is appropriate given its location next to the school, while its connotations of the written word echo and emphasise the cultural identity of Jericho, an area whose history and identity has been shaped by Oxford University Press.

‘The image I proposed for Oxford was that of a fountain pen. The image can be seen as a reference to serious study and learning, particularly to the signing of important documents, an age-old formality that connects, like Oxford itself, the past and the present, and which is recognised globally,’ Michael Craig-Martin said.

‘We’re delighted to have Michael Craig-Martin’s striking work,’ said Professor Ngaire Woods, Dean of the Blavatnik School of Government. ‘He is already known in Oxford for his mural at the JR [John Radcliffe] Children’s Hospital, and we hope his new installation will further contribute to the city’s environment and community.’

Professor Sir Michael Craig-Martin was born in Dublin in 1941 and has lived and worked in Britain since 1966. He is well known to have been an influential teacher at Goldsmiths College, London, where he is an Emeritus Professor of Fine Art at Goldsmiths.

He has had numerous exhibitions and installations in galleries and museums around the world. He is known for fostering the Young British Artists, many of whom he taught, and for his conceptual artwork, ‘An Oak Tree.’

Michael Craig-Martin was born in Dublin, but spent most of his childhood in Washington DC. Later, he studied in Lycée Français in Bogotá, Colombia, and at Fordham University, New York. He then studied art at the Académie de la Grande Chaumière, Paris and Yale University. Craig-Martin was a tutor at Goldsmiths College from 1973, and his students included Damien Hirst.

He exhibited his seminal piece ‘An Oak Tree’ in 1973 It consists of a glass of water standing on a shelf attached to the gallery wall, next to which is a text using an argument to explain why it is in fact an oak tree. The work was bought by the National Gallery of Australia in 1977, and the Tate has an artist’s copy.

The Irish Museum of Modern Art in Dublin presented ‘Michael Craig-Martin: Works 1964-2006’ (2006), which included works from over 40 years of his career, including paintings, sculptures, wall drawings, neon works and text pieces.

Craig-Martin was appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in 2001 and was knighted in 2016 for services to art. His memoir, On Being An Artist, was published in 2015.

Michael Craig-Martin’s ‘Fountain Pen’ faces the Oxford University Press (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Daily prayers in Ordinary Time
with USPG: (147) 22 October 2023,
Week of Prayer for World Peace (8)

‘Father Forgive’ … the Cross of Nails in Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Patrick Comerford

We are in Ordinary Time in the Church Calendar, and today is the Twentieth Sunday after Trinity (Trinity XX, 22 October 2023).

Later this morning, I hope to be at the Parish Eucharist in Holy Trinity Church, Old Wolverton. But, before today begins, I am taking some time for prayer and reflection early this morning.

The Week of Prayer for World Peace began last Sunday and ends today. My reflections each morning during these eight days have been gathered around this theme in these ways:

1, A reflection on the Week of Prayer for World Peace ;

2, the Gospel reading of the day in the Church of England lectionary;

3, a prayer from the USPG prayer diary.

The Week of Prayer for World Peace began with ‘A Call to Prayer for World Peace’ signed by faith leaders in 1974

A Week of Prayer for World Peace:

The International Prayer For Peace:

Lead me from death to life, from falsehood to truth
Lead me from despair to hope, from fear to trust
Lead me from hate to love, from war to peace
Let peace fill our hearts, our world, our universe

Day 8, Perceived Enemies: Praying for those we perceive as enemies:

Forgive do I creatures all, and let all creatures forgive me. Unto all have I amity, and unto none enmity.

Where in the Qu’ran does it say you should love your enemies?

The central teaching of the Qu’ran is peace. It exhorts believers in numerous verses to make peace with one’s enemies.
Kahif Shahzada, Muslim author

The principle of loving one’s enemies is not a call to pacifism, nor does it ask us to conjure up warm feelings of affection for those who mistreat us.

One is not required to like his enemy. The love we are to express toward our enemies consists of acts of loving kindness which accord the enemy common dignity and recognise his basic humanity.

The instruction to love an enemy applies on a personal level of individual interaction. Our Master did not mean that nations and governments should appease aggressors with acts of loving kindness.
(First Fruits of Zion Messianic Jewish)

Everyone’s breath is the same, there is no colour, no caste, no religion … If people can come to peace with themselves and find inner harmony, then that will translate into external harmony … not promoting a particular religious doctrine or philosophy, rather looking to promote the goodness of human nature to find it in unconditional love.
Shayalpa Tenzin Ranpoche, Tibetan Buddhist Monk

Why should we pray for our enemies? Because Jesus did. He prayed for those who opposed Him, for those who devised evil against Him, and ultimately as He hung on the Cross, Jesus prayed for His Father to forgive all those who had a part in His death, because they did not know what they were doing. Jesus modelled unconditional love and how we should pray for our enemies, then commanded us to do the same.

Then Jesus said, ‘Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.’ – Christianity

Cover us with the shelter of Your peace. May we have the courage to denounce violence and destructiveness, and may we become partners in building that shelter of peace – Judaism

God of tender mercies, we admit that sometimes we don’t know what to do with ourselves. We anger at the slightest insult and imagine great vengeance upon those who have wronged us. We laze about in the good news of our faith and do not consider the deep commitment of faith. We care for ourselves but not for others. Forgive us, we pray. Forgive us, help us to repent and make us whole. Amen.
Beth Merrill Neel, Presbyterian Minister, USA

>‘Why should we pray for our enemies? … the Reconciliation monument in the ruins of Coventry Cathedral (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Matthew 22: 15-22 (NRSVA):

15 Then the Pharisees went and plotted to entrap him in what he said. 16 So they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, ‘Teacher, we know that you are sincere, and teach the way of God in accordance with truth, and show deference to no one; for you do not regard people with partiality. 17 Tell us, then, what you think. Is it lawful to pay taxes to the emperor, or not?’ 18 But Jesus, aware of their malice, said, ‘Why are you putting me to the test, you hypocrites? 19 Show me the coin used for the tax.’ And they brought him a denarius. 20 Then he said to them, ‘Whose head is this, and whose title?’ 21 They answered, ‘The emperor’s.’ Then he said to them, ‘Give therefore to the emperor the things that are the emperor’s, and to God the things that are God’s.’ 22 When they heard this, they were amazed; and they left him and went away.

The Revd Tuomas Mäkipää (left), the Chaplain at Saint Nicholas, Helsinki, who introduces the USPG Prayer Diary this week, with Father Heikki Huttunen of Holy Trinity Orthodox Church (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)

Today’s Prayers: USPG Prayer Diary:

The theme this week in ‘Pray With the World Church,’ the Prayer Diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel), is ‘Praying for Peace.’ This theme is introduced today:

As the war continues in Ukraine USPG and the Diocese in Europe support several programmes and initiatives to support refugees who flee the country. The Chaplaincy at Saint Nicholas is one of many chaplaincies that have pooled its resources to help ease the suffering of those refugees having to flee their homes because of the conflict in Ukraine and supports the Vallila Help Centre in its work.

The Revd Tuomas Mäkipää, Chaplain of Saint Nicholas, Helsinki has written the following prayer for those affected by conflict.

Give wisdom to the leaders of the nations,
that they may be a force for good on the earth.
Sustain the anxious and fearful and renew them with courage from on high,
Comfort all worried families whose loved ones are in danger,
surround them with your love protect them from all harm.
Be with the sick and wounded,
Stand by all prisoners and captives,
let your mercy be shown to all and your power to heal and save.
In Christ Jesus your son, our Lord, Amen

The USPG Prayer Diary today (22 October 2023, Trinity XX) invites us to pray in these words:

Oh, God of peace and safety
Pour your peace on us
Oh, God of peace,
Grant peace in our hearts
(from an Arabic hymn).

The Collect:

God, the giver of life,
whose Holy Spirit wells up within your Church:
by the Spirit’s gifts equip us to live the gospel of Christ
and make us eager to do your will,
that we may share with the whole creation
the joys of eternal life;
through Jesus Christ your Son our Lord,
who is alive and reigns with you,
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God, now and for ever.

The Post-Communion Prayer:

God our Father,
whose Son, the light unfailing,
has come from heaven to deliver the world
from the darkness of ignorance:
let these holy mysteries open the eyes of our understanding
that we may know the way of life,
and walk in it without stumbling;
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

Yesterday’s Reflection

Continued Tomorrow

The Week of Prayer for World Peace ends today, Sunday 22 October 2023

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

Saint Nicholas’s Chaplaincy supports the work of Vallila Centre through grants from USPG and the Diocese in Europe (Photograph: Patrick Comerford, 2023)