Sutherland, as painter and designer, built various graphic devices into the tapestry
to give it virtual
depth within a dominant green 'cosmos'. An illusion of depth is created by the subtle mix of colours
other than green, the texture of the weave, and the wrinkles in the fabric. Several visual planes
above and below the green ground may be discerned by following converging lines and tracing the
relative positions of superimposed objects. They provide clues to define positions above and below
the plane of the green cosmos, which can take the discerning viewer from the cathedral through the
tapestry into notional space where the various elements of the tapestry have meaningful virtual
positions. For example, there are three openings in the green cosmos which reveal darker voids
behind. The main opening into this dark cosmos is delineated by the central oval, called the
mandorla. In painting and sculpture a mandorla is an almond-shaped area usually surrounding the
resurrected Christ ,or the Virgin at the Assuption.
Finally, there is a smaller rectangular opening above the mandorla defined by a bird
motive, and an
even smaller one, containing the head of Satan, superimposed on the frame depicting St Michael's
struggle with Satan.
The main planes of the tapestry's virtual space may be defined as follows:-
· Plane 1 Within the green
cosmos, the element nearest the viewer is the panel of the
Crucifixion, in front of two broad golden ribbons at the foot of the tapestry. From the nave the
panel seems to be extended into the cathedral by the silver cross on the altar. This illusion is
produced because the altar cross partly obscures the tapestry panel and seems to be an
outward projection of it. The altar cross was not part of the original design, but from the nave it
now makes it difficult to tell where the virtual space of the tapestry meets the real space of the
· Plane 2 Going further
back into the tapestry we encounter the virtual space containing the four
creatures described collectively as the tetramorph.
· Plane 3 The next spatial
plane contains the chalice.
· Plane 4 Then comes St
Michael on the edge of the opening to the dark cosmos that
delineates the inner space of the mandorla. The figure of Christ, with Man between his feet, is
situated within this opening.
· Plane 5 The head and
breast of Christ seem to have been drawn in a special vibrant plane.
This plane is superimposed on a cluster of interlocking swirls which produces an illusion that
the upper part of Christ floats above the two rectangular objects behind it. This dynamic image
is reinforced because one of these objects is transparent.
· Plane 6 The beams of
gold which illuminate one side of Christ's face emanate from the
rectangular opening of a tunnel, or chute, above the mandorla. This opening provides another
virtual access point to the dark cosmos.
· Plane 7 This space is
the dark cosmos from which Christ seems to have emerged. Curved
golden ribbons trailing from the boxes of the tetramorph indicates that they are tethered to a
position somewhere in this void.