Page 8, 20th July 1990

20th July 1990
Page 8
Page 8, 20th July 1990 — The best of modern religious artists' work

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Locations: York, London, Rome, Canterbury


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The best of modern religious artists' work

GALLERIES by Leigh Hatts

THE Bar Convent Museum at York, noted for its hidden chapel and all season vestments for underground use, is associated with learning about the past.

This month, however, the museum is the venue for an important exhibition which will have an effect on church interiors in the next century. Art In Churches (daily until July29; £1 35), staged by the committee of the same name, brings together from cathedrals and churches any !WW works of art by artists who have featured in this column in recent years.

On the list of patrons (which includes Cardinal Hume) is Archbishop Runcie who is known to want good quality visual contributions to worship and has demonstrated the possibility by allowing the painting of the ceiling of his early English chapel at Lambeth Palace. Displayed are Leonard Rosoman's cartoons for the vaulted roof depicting Pope Gregory, St Thomas of Canterbury and the first Anglican archbishop Matthew "Nosey" Parker. The work culminates in the flaming head of Christ above the altar to draw one's attention upwards.

Sketches for an east end cross at nearby St Andrew's in London's Waterloo illustrate the possibilities open to a tiny inner city church community with an ugly 1960s building largely given over to secular activity in the week.

Art In Churches provided a grant for the iron and steel cross by Nigel Melhuish who found inspiration for the work in Rome and new technology. He placed his snap of the sun in the Pantheon under an enlarger to achieve a Canterbury cross surrounded with a halo. The final work, now in place, uses hand made gold wallpaper for the background with metallic car paint from Halfords on the ironwork.

Working on Gabriel's Wharf in the Waterloo parish is the stained glass artist Caroline Swash who believes that church commissions continue to provide the most challenging work. In York are her designs for the east window of St Mary the Virgin at Hemsby in Norfolk. This church is already .a model for the future, being shared by Anglicans and Catholics, and the windows' background for various symbols is blue in honour of the dedication. Caroline Swash's church windows in Dulwich were chosen in response to topical discussion and feature use and misuse of the earth's resources and the cost of witness in this case Terry Waite's continuing captivity.

Generous space is given over to Albert Herbert including his controversial stations of the cross rejected by an east end church although he had been commissioned through Art In Churches. But the artist now takes the view that far more have seen his work than if it had been quietly accepted. He continues to decline offers for individual scenes so that the pictures remain together as a complete set.

Polly Hope's Easter cope worn in Derby cathedral has a resurrection theme with the "place of the skull" represented by skulls round the base and Easter by bluebirds laying red Easter eggs of Greece on the front. The clasp is in the form of silver rabbits.

This is perhaps the most unexpected exhibit which may be better displayed when the entire exhibition moves to the more spacious Norwich Anglican cathedral next month (daily, August 6 to September 2).

Lincoln Cathedral is one stop

on The Journey, a city trail (until August 12) which explores contemporary art M religious and spiritual life.

This venture has been organised by Judith Robinson of the Usher Gallery which is showing pieces from the Ditchling community and Helen Chadwick's One Flesh where Christ is female. A New Icons exhibition includes work by Dennis Creffield and Richard Webb.

In the lofty St Mary Magdalene with St Paul in the Bail church Craigie Aitchison's Crucifixion IV has replaced the altar cross to become an authentic part of worship. This is almost certainly the best experiment. The naked "golden man" (as Leonard McComb's life size Portrait of a young man standing is known) has given the event publicity but distracted from the other works temporarily in the cathedral. The most sought out work (after the "golden man") is still the permanent Lincoln Imp carving which adorns so many souvenirs.

But is the "golden man" any more of a surprise in church than Keir Smith's Running from Eden railway sleepers installation in nearby Stow church?

The Journey's excellent catalogue contains several references to Walter Hussey who encouraged the setting up of Art In Churches., His own great art collection, built up when he was Dean of Chichester, can be seen in London at Wildenstein's in New Bond Street this month (daily except weekends; free).

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