6. A space-time model
Notional spaces
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 cathedral .
· 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.