Stations of the Cross brought together fourteen video works by Mark Dean that reinterpreted the medieval tradition of spiritual pilgrimage through contemplation of the path Jesus walked to Calvary on the day of his crucifixion. The videos are not literal depictions of this journey. They rely upon Dean’s trademark appropriation of film and video footage and music, to introduce visual and aural puns that generate and interrogate meaning within the work, setting up disputations between the different elements being sampled. Although the work is carefully constructed, the reverberations created by placing potent symbols side by side are myriad. The work was projected in sequence onto the circular Henry Moore altar at St Stephen Walbrook throughout the night on Easter Eve, interspersed with readings and space for meditation. Participants were invited to stay for the duration but remained free to come and go, as part of a vigil culminating in a performance of A Prelude to Being Here by two dancers from Lizzi Kew Ross & Co and an optional dawn Eucharist.
Here Comes The Sony is a twelve-screen video and sound work, installed for the first time under the dome of St Paul’s Cathedral during Eastertide (Wednesday 26 April). It reinterprets the less definitive tradition of the Stations of the Resurrection, which emerged to encourage meditation on the resurrection appearances of Jesus recorded in the New Testament. Being Here, devised by choreographer Lizzi Kew Ross and the dancers, is performed on the stage formed by the circular placement of television monitors under the dome. Five dancers emerge from the shadows around the edge of the stage and start to navigate the space, sometimes individually and sometimes in groups of far-off and nervous proximity. The on-lookers find themselves within the action of these movements. While not enacting the narratives, the dance performance is an interpretation of the moment, producing a sense of a shared journey and progression through time and space and enabling the audience to curate the tension and distance between the installation and their own responses.
Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb. So she ran and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” Then Peter and the other disciple set out and went toward the tomb … Simon Peter … went into the tomb. He saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the cloth that had been on Jesus’ head, not lying with the linen wrappings but rolled up in a place by itself. Then the other disciple … also went in, and he saw and believed; for as yet they did not understand the scripture, that he must rise from the dead. Then the disciples returned to their homes.
But Mary stood weeping outside the tomb. As she wept … Jesus said to her, “Mary!” She turned and said to him in Hebrew, “Rabbouni!” (which means Teacher). Jesus said to her, “Do not hold on to me, because I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and say to them, ‘I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.’” Mary Magdalene went and announced to the disciples, “I have seen the Lord”; and she told them that he had said these things to her. (John 20. 1 – 18)
In his great book The Gulag ArchipelagoAlexander Solzhenitsyn wrote of the way the Siberian labour camps to which the Soviet government consigned those they deemed enemies of the state robbed him of everything that makes life meaningful: “He is robbed of his name – he is known only by a number. He is robbed of books and pen and paper – a dreadful deprivation for a writer of his stature. He is robbed of work he can do with dignity. Instead he must labour as a slave. He is deprived of sufficient food and sleep. He gets no letters. He hears no news of his family or of the outside world. He is stripped of his own clothes and dressed in verminous rags. He is robbed of his health – he succumbs to cancer.
Solzhenitsyn, robbed of everything, sinks as it were to the bottom, to the very base of being. And then he says something extraordinary. He writes of the day, ‘when I deliberately let myself sink to the bottom and felt it firm under my feet – the hard rocky bottom which is the same for all.’
On the Friday that we call ‘good’, Jesus too descends to rock bottom. He is betrayed by a friend, arrested, deserted and denied by his friends, falsely accused, wrongly condemned, beaten and mocked, before being killed by extreme torture. More than this even, scripture implies that in death Jesus descends to hell and, if hell is separation of God and the absence of all that is good, then, because Jesus cries out “My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?” we can understand that he enters hell.
As a result, we can say that however low you go Jesus has already been there and that it is Jesus that we find when we, like Solzhenitsyn, reach rock bottom. He is the rock that we find when we have lost everything that is ours or have reached the outer limits of who we understand ourselves to be. He is the firm foundation on which a different way of life can then be built because when you do reach rock bottom and find there a firm foundation on which to stand, then the only way to go is up.
Some of you will remember these lines from Yazz’s No. 1 song: “We've been broken down / To the lowest turn / Being on the bottom line / Sure ain't no fun ... / I wanna thank you / For loving me this way / Things may be a little hard now / But we'll find a brighter day / Hold on, hold on / Hold on, Won't be long / The only way is up, baby / For you and me now / The only way is up, baby / For you and me now”
That is what we celebrate in Eastertide and that is why this is an Eastertide reflection and not the Good Friday reflection that it has appeared to be so far. Jesus reached rock bottom on Good Friday but that was not where the story ends. For Jesus, the resurrection meant that the only way for him, following Good Friday, was up. And because Jesus dies and is resurrected as the forerunner for each one of us, this can be our experience too. Jesus went into the depths of human sin and suffering to save us, to bring us up and out from our depths of sin and suffering into new life together with him; a life in which resurrection has begun to be our experience and will become our eternal experience.
So, there is light at the end of the tunnel. Ain’t no valley low enough to keep us from Jesus, even the valley of the shadow of death. A change is gonna come. The times, they are a’changin’. We can move on up to our destination. We will rise from the ruins. The only way is up. The songs and the clichés find their truth in Jesus and his resurrection which is the promise of our own personal resurrection and the resurrection of our world itself.
Hallelujah! Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed! May this declaration resound not only in these walls but touch the lives of all we meet and forever be the truth of which we speak. Your love, once sown within a garden, tended for your own people, neglected and rejected, now spreads its sweet perfume in this place and wherever it is shown. Hallelujah! Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!
Lord of life, you defeated death to demonstrate a love that is beyond our understanding that reaches out even to me; saving Grace to all who hear. Lord Jesus Christ, we rejoice and rejoice continually in Your glorious and triumphant victory over death. For Your victory is our victory. Help us to live by it, in it, and for it. We are grateful to our depths - grateful forever. Hallelujah! Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!
Lord of life, you defeated death to show that we can rise from all that binds us to the world; pride, envy, anger, fear, the debt of sin that holds us here. Lord of life, we pray for all who bring your word of life as a light to those in darkness. For those who bring your word of peace to those enslaved by fear. For those who bring your word of love to those in need of comfort. Lord of love and Lord of peace, Lord of resurrection life, be known through our lives and through your power. Hallelujah! Jesus is risen! He is risen indeed!
God, who through the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ has given us the victory, give you joy and peace in your faith; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
The current series of these services of musical discovery is exploring Reformation 500 themes beginning with the theme of 'Grace not works'.. The service featured the Choral Scholars singing: 'This joyful Eastertide' arranged by Charles Wood, 'Ave Maria' by Robert Parsons, 'Amazing Grace' arranged by Will Todd, and 'Magnificat' from The Short Service by Thomas Tallis.
All Discover & explore services begin at 1.10pm:
Mon 1st May - Bank Holiday – Church closed
Mon 8 May - God's written Word
Mon 15 May - Through Christ alone
Mon 22 May - God loves you
Mon 29 May Bank Holiday – Church closed
Mon 5 June - Baptism saves
Mon 12 Jun - The Lord's Supper
Mon 19 Jun - The Cross alone
Mon 26 Jun - Forgiveness is free
Mon 3 Jul - Life of repentance
In today's service I shared the following reflection:
The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century changed Christianity forever. Roused to action by the corruption and abuses they saw in the Roman Catholic Church of the time, leaders like Martin Luther and John Calvin spearheaded a movement that transformed Christianity and eventually led to the emergence of the Protestant denominations that exist today. The Reformers were guided by the conviction that the church of their day had drifted away from the essential, original teachings of Christianity, especially in regard to what it was teaching about salvation—how people can be forgiven of sin through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and receive eternal life with God.
Luther's study and research led him to question the contemporary usage of terms such as penance and righteousness in the Roman Catholic Church. He became convinced that the church had lost sight of what he saw as several of the central truths of Christianity — the most important being the doctrine of justification by faith alone. He began to teach that salvation is a gift of God's grace through Christ received by faith alone. As a result of his lectures on the Psalms and Paul's letter to the Romans, from 1513–1516, Luther "achieved an exegetical breakthrough, an insight into the all-encompassing grace of God and all-sufficient merit of Christ."[ Lewis W. Spitz, The Renaissance and Reformation Movements, Revised Ed. (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 1987), 332]
So, the Reformation sought to re-orient Christianity on what they thought to be the original message of Jesus and the early church. The Reformers’ theological convictions about the essentials of Christianity were later summarised in five Latin phrases (or slogans) that emerged during the Reformation known as The Five Solas. These are:
Sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”): The Bible alone is our highest authority.
Sola Fide (“faith alone”): We are saved through faith alone in Jesus Christ.
Sola Gratia (“grace alone”): We are saved by the grace of God alone.
Solus Christus (“Christ alone”): Jesus Christ alone is our Lord, Savior, and King.
Soli Deo Gloria (“to the glory of God alone”): We live for the glory of God alone.
Sola Fide and Sola Gratia stand alongside one another and are our primary concern today. They summarise the belief that we are saved solely through faith in Jesus Christ because of God’s grace and Christ’s merit alone. We are not saved by our merits or declared righteous by our good works. God grants salvation not because of the good things we do, and despite our sin.
The Reformers believed that, as humans, we inherited (from our ancestor Adam) a nature that is enslaved to sin. Because of our nature, we are naturally enemies of God and lovers of evil. We need to be made alive (regenerated) so that we can even have faith in Christ. God graciously chooses to give us new hearts so that we trust in Christ and are saved through faith alone. God graciously preserves us and keeps us. When we are faithless toward him, he is still faithful. We can only stand before God by his grace as he mercifully attributes to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ and attributes to him the consequences of our sins. Jesus’ life of perfect righteousness is counted as ours, and our records of sin and failure were counted to Jesus when he died on the cross.
Sola fide and sola gratia express the teaching of Ephesians 2:8: “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”
Luther insisted that "This one and firm rock, which we call the doctrine of justification is the chief article of the whole Christian doctrine, which comprehends the understanding of all godliness." This, however, led to further debate about the extent to which our works are a factor in salvation; a debate which also occurred in the early Church. There is an apparent conflict between the letters of Paul and the letter of James on this point which has caused confusion on the part of many Christians as James states that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone (2:24). Luther once called the book of James "an epistle of straw" because of this difficult passage, although he later retracted the remark.
It is arguable, however, that James was not contradicting Paul but instead teaching something compatible with Paul's teaching while also correcting a misuse of Paul's teaching. What James was trying to get across to his churches was that loveless faith is absolutely useless; and anybody that comes along and says "We are justified by faith alone, and so you don't have to be a loving person to go to heaven" is not telling the truth. That is the understanding which informs the reading we heard earlier from the Lutheran Church’s Missouri Synod: ‘Your good works are done in response to salvation. Justification by grace through faith does not mean good works are bad, but puts them in their proper role. We live according to God’s will out of thankfulness to His love.’
Help us, O God, because, like all your children, we need your daily grace. Yesterday’s blessings can encourage but will not take care of the burdens of today. May we know you as the Shepherd of our lives and eternal souls. May our fears be dissolved by faith in you and through the power of your love. Help us to love and manifest the spirit of love under all circumstances to all people. May our lives be a glory to you, a help to our fellow human beings and rewarding to ourselves. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
O God, you know our weakness and failings, and that without Your help we can accomplish nothing for the good of souls, our own and others’. Grant us, therefore, the help of Your grace. Grant it according to our particular needs this day. Enable us to see the tasks You will set before us in the daily routine of our lives, and help us work hard at our appointed tasks. Teach us to bear patiently all the trials of suffering or failure that may come to us today. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
O Lord God almighty, who has brought to us to the beginning of this day, defend us in the same by Your power; that we may not this day fall into any sin, but that all our thoughts, words, and works may be directed to the fulfillment of Your will. Merciful Lord, you are never weary of speaking to our poor hearts. Grant us grace that, if today we hear your voice, our hearts may not be hardened. Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer.
God grant to the living, grace; to the departed, rest; to the Church, the Queen, the Commonwealth, and all humankind, peace and concord; and to us and all his servants, life everlasting; and the blessing of God almighty, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, be among you and remain with you always. Amen.
St Stephen Walbrook in the City of London has been described as one of the few in which the genius of Sir Christopher Wren shines in full splendour. As Priest-in-charge at St Stephen Walbrook, I am regularly called on to tell the story of how this English 17th-century masterpiece by Wren acquired a modern altar by Henry Moore complemented by a circular re-ordering and further commissions from Patrick Heron, Hans Coper and Andrew Varah. In this lecture I will show how this story brings into focus some of the key issues and questions regarding modern or contemporary commissions while furthering discussion of those same issues.
Other talks in the exhibition programme include:
Icons in the Making – 5pm, Saturday 29 April (Weston Room)
Icons in the Making by Dr Irina Bradley: The lecture will explore the history of Byzantine art as well as the icon painting process with its rich symbolism and spirituality. Dr Bradley is a scholar and an icon painter, who was awarded a PhD for her thesis Spiritual Striving in Icon Painting with the emphasis on images of St George and the Dragon and a series of icons and contemporary paintings she created. Upon her graduation Dr Bradley’s work was exhibited at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London, where she undertook her studies and where she is a visiting tutor for the MA and general public programs. Dr Bradley’s work is worldwide including churches, private chapels and private collections.
Exposition on ‘The Bridge’, 12 & 19 May, 1.00pm (The Hostry)
Exposition of ‘The Bridge’: Anthony Hodgson will take the viewer on a journey exploring the themes of his painting ‘The Bridge’ by using spoken word, poetry and song.
Interpretations of the Cross in Contemporary Art and Culture, 2.30pm, 20 May (Weston Room)
In today’s secular society, it is perhaps surprising that artists still find themselves drawn to the Christian cross as a means of expression. The cross has never been an event about which one can remain neutral; from the start it was an offence. Contemporary artists’ interpretations have taken many forms. Wendy McTernan will look at some examples and see how, in unexpected and sometimes shocking ways, Jesus’ story becomes part of theirs – and ours.
The next series of these services of musical discovery will explore Reformation 500 themes. The first service (on Monday 24th April) will feature: 'This joyful Eastertide' arranged by Charles Wood, 'Ave Maria' by Robert Parsons, 'Amazing Grace' arranged by Will Todd, and 'Magnificat' from The Short Service by Thomas Tallis.
All Discover & explore services begin at 1.10pm:
Mon 24th Apr - Grace not Works
Mon 1st May - Bank Holiday – Church closed
Mon 8 May - God's written Word
Mon 15 May - Through Christ alone
Mon 22 May - God loves you
Mon 29 May Bank Holiday – Church closed
Mon 5 June - Baptism saves
Mon 12 Jun - The Lord's Supper
Mon 19 Jun - The Cross alone
Mon 26 Jun - Forgiveness is free
Mon 3 Jul - Life of repentance
Other comments which have been made about Discover & explore services include:
‘They are thought-provoking and inspiring services and the music is amazing.’
‘I really enjoy the Discover and Explore Services. I find the atmosphere very peaceful and the beautiful music enhances that feeling. I like the fact that it is a different type of service and there is time to contemplate and pray.’
‘I personally like the Discover & Explore services very much. I will admit that I have a great love of choral music so the service format is winner on that ground alone for me. However looking at it objectively, I like the format very much. It hits the right note of a serious but lighter touch, but it is not too light. I like the idea of taking a topic and shaping the rest of the service around that theme. It’s great for example to have excerpts from Shakespeare. The length is right too. I come to church amongst other reasons to think, reflect and learn and I feel this service format is excellent.’
‘Discover & explore brings me into the City. Entering the church feels like entering another world – one which is, though, very much part of its surrounds as well. The thing I most enjoy is hearing the choir’s anthems in a historical site whose acoustics are perfect for that. That said, I probably wouldn’t make the effort if it were just concerts: I like the integration of the music into the themes of the reflections and readings as well. It’s a coherent entity. And the emphasis this term on figures from St. Stephen’s history, the collaboration with the Guildhall Art Gallery – those are the kinds of things that ground the series in its community. But again, the extraordinarily high quality of the music is what really draws me in. I would feel like I’d wasted a wonderful opportunity if I didn’t come to Discover & explore!’
‘I discovered this treasure recently. The choir fills the Dome, as does the tiny organ. I am a keen singer and in that space feel (in the hymns) you are with the choir. The service sheet is very good and I was signed up on first visit to reading. The weekly foci are interesting and often relate to remarkable previous incumbents.’
‘The Discover & Explore format is great - sorry I haven't made it before! You are v fortunate to have the choir in the week! Even better in real life today. Lunchtime service @StStephenEC4N with choral scholars from @smitf_london conducted by @JeremyColeUK.’
The beginning of the twentieth century saw the formation of many artist's colonies and communities.
The most successful of these was probably at Gödöllő in Hungary, which was based on the writings on John Ruskin and William Morris. Its closest equivalent in Britain was Ditchling in Sussex where the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic was formed.
Eric Gill, later followed by Edward Johnston and Hilary Pepler, moved to Ditchling, in 1907 seeking the advantages of country living, and this move led directly to the formation of the Guild in 1920. Earlier, in 1914, the three men issued their first edition of 'The Game', an occasional magazine which was to become the main forum for the views of the Guild. The arrival in 1917 of Fr. Vincent McNabb, prior of the Dominicans at Hawkesyard in Staffordshire, became the catalyst for the transition from three friends living and working close by to the formation of the Guild. On 29 July 1918 Pepler, Gill, his wife Mary and his apprentice Desmond Chute joined the Third Order of the Dominicans.
The Guild was set up to be a revolutionary community of artists and craftspeople living, working and worshipping as Dominican Tertiaries. The January 1918 edition of 'The Game' stated 'The object of the Revolution is to replace the worship of Mammon by the worship of God. We adhere to the principle of human freedom, which we believe to be possible only by obedience to God and by recognising the institutions which are of God.' Johnston was unable to follow in their ardent Catholicism and did not join, although he continued to live in Ditchling. David Jones joined the community in 1921 and then, in 1924, moved with Gill to Caldey in Wales as part of an attempt to establish a similar Guild there.
As Fiona MacCarthy has noted: ‘Gill was revolutionary in his attitude to making, a pioneer in reviving the medieval practice of "direct carving" … For Gill, direct carving was part of a whole philosophy of life, a campaign against coyness and adulteration wherever he found it … He developed what became a religion of explicitness, "the making out of stone things seen in the mind".’ Gill also went on a ‘long and sometimes agonising quest to reconcile the sexual and the spiritual.’ However, he eventually became ‘a Catholic artist in a primarily Anglican country, working almost exclusively for Catholic clients’; the Guild likewise.
Timothy Elphick describes much of the Guild's work as being devotional: 'Wood engravings of religious subjects were cut in profusion by Gill and Chute and the newly arrived David Jones, many for use as illustrations in THE GAME. Pepler's St Dominic's Press was printing Mass-sheets, ordination cards and music for psalms and canticles, as well as books and pamphlets written by guild members and their friends. One such book, a translation in 1923 of Jacques Maritain's Art et Scholastique, was to be of the greatest importance'.['Eric Gill and the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic', Hove Museum and Art Gallery, 1990]
As a result, the specifically Christian modernism of the Guild of St Joseph and St Dominic was part of The Third Spring, a flowering of Roman Catholicism among artists and intellectuals which had G.K. Chesterton and Jacques Maritain as its guiding lights and which saw a flourishing of sacred art societies, similar to that at Ditchling, across Europe.
A similar flowering of Anglicanism among artists and intellectuals also occurred in Britain, primarily as a result of the ministries of George Bell and Walter Hussey. On 27th June 1929, the day he became Bishop of Chichester, Bell expressed, in his enthronement address, his commitment to a much closer relationship between the Anglican Church and the arts:
‘Whether it be music or painting or drama, sculpture or architecture or any other form of art, there is an instinctive sympathy between all of these and the worship of God. Nor should the church be afraid to thank the artists for their help, or to offer its blessing to the works so pure and lovely in which they seek to express the Eternal Spirit. Therefore I earnestly hope that in this diocese (and in others) we may seek ways and means for a reconciliation of the Artist and the Church—learning from him as well as giving to him and considering with his help our conception alike of the character of Christian worship and of the forms in which the Christian teaching may be proclaimed.’
Bell had been intent on re-establishing the link between the Church and the arts from his early days as Dean of Canterbury where he had begun with religious drama, commissioning in 1928 a new play for the cathedral from John Masefield; an event which in large part led to the establishing of a series of Canterbury plays, including Murder in the Cathedral by T.S. Eliot. He went on to commission drama, music and visual art, put structures in place (e.g. the Sussex Churches Art Council and its ‘Pictures in Churches Loan Scheme’) to support a wider commissioning of artists, placed his trust in the vision of artists when they encountered opposition and he was called on to adjudicate on commissions and strongly supported the appointment of Walter Hussey as Dean of Chichester Cathedral to take forward the commissioning programme he had initiated there.
Bell viewed his drive to re-associate the Church and the Arts as being ‘an effective protection against barbarism, whether the barbarism was Nazism, materialism or any other threat to civilization.’ Murals commissioned from Duncan Grant, Vanessa and Quentin Bell in 1941 for the Sussex Church of St Michael & All Angels Berwick represented a fulfilment of his vision to be a catalyst for promoting the relationship between the Arts and the Church. As Sir Kenneth Clark wrote in 1941: ‘...with a little judicious publicity it might have the effect of encouraging other dioceses to do the same. If once such a movement got under way, it would have incalculable influence for the good on English Art.’
At Berwick, for the first time a modern artist of national standing, Duncan Grant, undertook ‘a complete decorative scheme for an historic rural church’. ‘Duncan Grant was the lead artist for the murals and put forward the initial proposals. He had moved with Vanessa Bell and her husband, Clive, to Charleston Farmhouse at the foot of the Downs, three miles to the west of Berwick Church, in 1916. Quentin Bell, the son of Vanessa and Clive, undertook all the paintings within the Chancel as well as ‘The Supper at Emmaus’ at the end of the north aisle.’
They ‘had in view a ‘decorative scheme’ which, rather than simply being a series of individual paintings within frames, would create an environment with its own particular feeling and aesthetic.’ A study for one of the six larger works in the scheme, Christ in Glory, can be seen in the exhibition.
Grant’s work was ‘influenced by his travels in Italy where, as an art student, he had seen the mosaics at Ravenna and copied the frescoes of Piero della Francesca (1420-1492) at Arezzo. Then in Paris he had copied works by Chardin (1699-1779) portraying scenes from everyday life, ordinary people in work or recreation. At the same time he studied the work of the Impressionists and was later greatly influenced by the Post-Impressionists such as Cezanne, Seurat, and others …
The murals at Berwick exhibit influences from all these traditions, but also something of the artists’ focus on the intimacy of the home and personal relationships and their love of the beauty and simplicity of the Downland landscape.’
The murals themselves looked back in terms of style to the grand ‘tradition of ecclesiastical art’ while their content was nostalgic for a past picture of rural England which was rapidly being lost. Both factors meant that the scheme at Berwick did not serve as a model for Church patronage of modern art as had been the hope of Bell and Clarke. Although the artists at Berwick were considered ‘avant garde’ in their day what they actually produced for the church was a scheme which looked back to earlier traditions of ecclesiastical art, rather than one which looked forward.
Bell’s colleague Walter Hussey wrote, in preparation for his final commission that it had been the great enthusiasm of his life and work ‘to commission for the Church the very best artists I could, in painting, in sculpture, in music and in literature.’ He was guided by the principle that, ‘Whenever anything new was required in the first seven hundred years of the history of the cathedral, it was put in the contemporary style.’ Like Bell, Hussey believed that ‘True artists of all sorts, as creators of some of the most worthwhile of man’s work, are well adapted to express man’s worship of God.’ When this is done consciously, he suggested, ‘the beauty and strength of their work can draw others to share to some extent their vision.’
Hussey, as noted in his Pallant House biography, “was responsible for commissioning some iconic works of twentieth century music and visual art, first as Vicar of St Matthew's Church Northampton and subsequently as Dean of Chichester Cathedral, from likes of William Albright, Leonard Bernstein, Benjamin Britten, Henry Moore, Graham Sutherland and William Walton”: Kenneth Clark spoke at the unveiling in 1961 of Graham Sutherland's Noli Me Tangere, another Hussey commission, this time at Chichester Cathedral, and reflected on the situation when Hussey first began to commission contemporary artists: ‘... when in 1944, a small body of artists and amateurs made a bomb-stricken journey to Northampton for the unveiling of Henry Moore's Virgin and Child, Canon Hussey had lit a candle, which is still very far from being a blaze ... The artists commissioned by Canon Hussey were ... little known outside the company of those directly interested in art. I think that even then collectors - both private and public - were shy of their work, and to put it in a church was a wonderful act of vision, courage and persuasive skill.’
Bell and Hussey made a major contribution to reinvigorating the Church’s patronage of the Arts, as evidenced in this exhibition by works from Hans Feibusch and Graham Sutherland related to commissions for Chichester Cathedral. The inspiration they provided for modernist commissions by churches continues in the permanent commissions, temporary installations and exhibitions undertaken by many British churches and Cathedrals today. This is a revolution, stemming initially from Gill’s 1915 Stations of the Cross at Westminster Cathedral, to which Sussex modernists made major contributions.
In 'Dear Mary' poet and painter Rupert Loydell writes about art and life and how they intersect. Fascinated by both renaissance and contemporary painting, he reinvents moments of annunciation in today's world, and revels in the colours and sunshine of Italy. This is a world of wonder and surprise, where aliens abduct the Virgin Mary, 20th century rock singers find themselves collaged together and singing about her, infinite greys (and grays) blur together between other greys, Francis Bacon paints angels, and even the weather forecast predicts the future.
Above all else, this is a book which celebrates language and art, and explores how we navigate the world around us, seen and unseen; how we might wonder, explain, and begin to understand.
“Artist and writer Rupert Loydell brings his accomplished eye, ear, and voice to this book of subtly crafted poems and prose. His loaded brush and carefully chosen words engage with luminous artworks and radiant landscape, and are also wrapped around a deeper mystery that invites, but ultimately defies description.” — Steve Scott
“Dear Mary is a thrilling love letter to the way in which meaning inheres in the world and the word. Light-drenched Tuscany is suffused with mysteriously overlaid greys; for Rupert Loydell, it is a place where everything is ‘trying to imply ascension’. Moments of transcendence occur even when ‘We didn’t get to see the angel.’” — Neil Philip
These pieces are 'flakes of reverence' or gaps for the numinous, gestures towards the missing tones and colours of angels, as Loydell meditates on these Italian icons, seeking whatever is outside the picture frame or beyond the truncated gestures.” — Martin Caseley
Some of the artists in the exhibition have given their own interpretations and perceptions of the works they have included in this exhibition. They include:
Michael Garaway - "These images present a moment of silent darkness after the event, perhaps late on the eve of the Jewish sabbath. The bodies are gone from the scene, and the visual array of items bear witness to the common, almost workaday process of execution, as it might have been from a Roman soldier's point of view."
Deborah Harrison - "This metal sculpture has been created to merge two Biblical images from the Old and New Testament: Just as Moses lifted up the serpent in the desert even so must the son of man be lifted up John 3:14 We can make the link that Christ offered himself as an offering on the pole (cross) for the healing of all who suffered."
My thoughts on the two concrete poems I have included in the show can be found by clicking here.
Harvey Bradley, curator of the exhibition, outlined the basis for the show and I thanked Harvey for all his work before also thanking the Cathedral staff for their support and for the opportunity to show work in this marvellous space. I then said:
“‘The Cross: designs & reflections’ is an exhibition with two objectives. The first, because commission4mission is an organisation which exists to encourage churches to commission contemporary art, is the attempt to display a range of designs of the cross which have the potential to be commissioned by churches.
To assist in imagining potential commissions and the process involved, we have included within the show concept drawings and designs to indicate how initial ideas are developed and revised in forming fully realised creations. We have included a wide range of designs, concepts and media to suggest the way in which our artists can lead you into new ways of understanding and perceiving the Cross, should you choose to commission them.
That brings us to our other aim which is to challenge you to view and perceive the cross from a wide range of different perspectives. This is what artists bring to a church and to commissions. There is no point in commissioning art which reinforces our existing understandings of the cross, as these are already received and understood. Instead artists and artworks are at their best when they take us out of our comfort zones and into new places which bring new understanding. We believe that that is what commission4mission’s artists do and what we hope is apparent in this exhibition with its variety of media, styles, perspectives and understandings.”
In addition, a church congregation project has been completed by members of St Mark’s Church, Oulton Broad, Suffolk where people of all ages contributed individual crosses for a large banner to be displayed at this exhibition, as well as later in their church.
commission4mission is also organising a programme of art talks during the exhibition. These include interpretations of The Cross in contemporary art and culture, exploration of issues in contemporary commissioning, and an exposition on themes from ‘The Bridge’ using spoken word, poetry and song.
The programme includes:
Icons in the Making – 5pm, Saturday 29 April (Weston Room) – Icons in the Making by Dr Irina Bradley: The lecture will explore the history of Byzantine art as well as the icon painting process with its rich symbolism and spirituality. Dr Bradley is a scholar and an icon painter, who was awarded a PhD for her thesis Spiritual Striving in Icon Painting with the emphasis on images of St George and the Dragon and a series of icons and contemporary paintings she created. Upon her graduation Dr Bradley’s work was exhibited at the Prince’s School of Traditional Arts in London, where she undertook her studies and where she is a visiting tutor for the MA and general public programs. Dr Bradley’s work is worldwide including churches, private chapels and private collections.
Congruity and controversy: exploring issues for contemporary commissions – 2.00pm, Monday 1 May (Weston Room) –St Stephen Walbrook in the City of London has been described as one of the few in which the genius of Sir Christopher Wren shines in full splendour. As Priest-in-charge at St Stephen Walbrook, Revd Jonathan Evens is regularly called on to tell the story of how this English 17th-century masterpiece by Wren acquired a modern altar by Henry Moore complemented by a circular re-ordering and further commissions from Patrick Heron, Hans Coper and Andrew Varah. In this lecture Jonathan will show how this story brings into focus some of the key issues and questions regarding modern or contemporary commissions while furthering discussion of those same issues.
Exposition on ‘The Bridge’, 12 & 19 May, 1.00pm (The Hostry) – Exposition of ‘The Bridge’: Anthony Hodgson will take the viewer on a journey exploring the themes of his painting ‘The Bridge’ by using spoken word, poetry and song.
Interpretations of the Cross in Contemporary Art and Culture, 2.30pm, 20 May (Weston Room) – In today’s secular society, it is perhaps surprising that artists still find themselves drawn to the Christian cross as a means of expression. The cross has never been an event about which one can remain neutral; from the start it was an offence. Contemporary artists’ interpretations have taken many forms. Wendy McTernan will look at some examples and see how, in unexpected and sometimes shocking ways, Jesus’ story becomes part of theirs – and ours.