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Saturday, 13 September 2008

Art interview - Henry Shelton (2)

JE: Your etched glass windows at All Saints Goodmayes were dedicated earlier in the year by the Bishop of Barking. How did it feel to have been able to leave this major legacy at the church where you worship?

HS: To have my work in churches, coupled with an exhibition at York Minister last year, really is the fulfilment of my life’s work. I don’t have much ambition to show in galleries. The whole point for me is to create reaction and engage people; for people to enjoy and be moved by my work just as I’ve been engaged by the work of other artists.

JE: The memorial windows were over-subscribed and I understand that the experience has led you to develop ideas for an Art Society assisting churches to commission new work. Can you tell us more about your plans for this Society?

HS: The purpose of the Society will be to promote modern Christian Art in all its forms (i.e. painting, sculpture, music etc.) and by doing so to raise money for charity, particularly children’s charities. I want us to be offering quality work and craftsmanship, rather than mass-produced work, to continue the legacy of the Church as a great commissioner of art. The Church has, in fact, commissioned some of the greatest works of art ever produced.

JE: Your ideas for a Christian Art Society are coming together at a time when several other art-related initiatives are being developed in the Barking Area (including a re-launch of the Faith & Image group at St Mary's Woodford and the Advent Art installation project initiated by Revd. John Brown). Do you see possibilities for a wider network of folk with an interest in the visual artists coming together in the Barking Area, in particular because the Bishop of Barking is himself an artist?

HS: Bishop David has agreed to become patron of the new Society and has showed great interest in the success of the venture. We are already seeing interest from churches in the Barking Area in exploring the possibility of commissioning windows, stations and other paintings as memorials.
JE: You are currently part of the group which is creating an Advent Art installation for churches in Redbridge. How have you found this experience of collaborating on an art project and what do you hope the project will achieve?

HS: It’s the first time I’ve been part of a community project. I’ve found it very interesting at the initial meetings and am looking forward to working on the project with the rest of the team. Our purpose is to provide a peaceful environment to reflect on the meaning of Advent amongst all the busyness of Christmas preparations. Real thanks are due to John Brown for his vision for the project.

JE: You have had a varied career having done creative work in commercial design and in fine art while your work is displayed in private homes, churches and commercial complexes. What do you can be the legacy that an artist like you can leave in our contemporary, consumerist culture?

HS: It’s a very difficult question to answer but, as I said earlier, when I look at a Rembrandt, the picture transcends the centuries and is as powerful today as when it was created. I am proud to be a very small part of that artistic and Church lineage and hope that my images will react on people in years to come in the same way that the masters have reacted on me. When I did the York Minister exhibition, one of the Canons said that my deposition image connected for him with images he had seen on TV of mothers holding their dead children. My image was powerful for him because he could relate it to modern episodes; sometimes it is remarks like that that tell me why it is that I paint.

Noah and the Whale: Five Years Time.

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