Thursday, 10 April 2014

Art for Lent (37): ‘40 days’ (2014) by
Angela Wright, Southwark Cathedral

‘40 days’ (2014) by Angela Wright, Southwark Cathedral

Patrick Comerford

For the third consecutive year, Southwark Cathedral is marking the season of Lent by exhibiting thought-provoking large-scale works of art. My choice of a work of Art for Lent this morning [10 April 2014] is one of those exhibits, ’40 Days’ by Angela Wright.

This work consists of a large wool installation relating to the high-altar and screen. It partners ‘another hour,’ an installation by Edmund de Waal in the retrochoir at the back of the altar screen. Both artists live and work within the Diocese of Southwark.

The installations are part of an emerging new tradition at the cathedral: two years ago, Southwark Cathedral hosted David Mach’s ‘Die Harder’ piece; and the Lenten installation last year (2013) was ‘Christ Rests in Peace’ by Nic Fiddian-Green.

Angela Wright’s piece, ‘40 days,’ is made from spun wool. It is suspended below the East Window of Southwark Cathedral, a drop of some 50 ft, covering the altar screen.

Angela Wright has worked as an artist in wool for several years and her installations have travelled the world in celebration of the Campaign for Wool. In this installation, she combines the two hanks of wool given by Martin Curtis: the original hank used in the first wool installation in “Wallspace” (2009) and the ‘40 countries’ wool hank used in exhibitions in London, Sydney, Shanghai and Seoul.

Her present exhibition in Southwark Cathedral is made from wool grown in 40 different countries and processed at the Haworth Scouring Company in Bradford under the constant supervision of the environmental consultants, ENco.

The 40 countries where the wool originated from include Britain, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and the US. There is also Viking Wool from Norway and Real Shetland Wool from the Shetland Islands.

The wool grown by different sheep breeds in different countries is totally different. They range from the super fine merino types that make wonderful fashion clothing to the Scottish Blackface wool that goes into some of the very best carpets. In between, there are hundreds of different wool types and grades and blending them together can be an extremely difficult task.

She says she hopes that “visitors will look up at its mass and the spillage of its myriad wavy strands tumbling down to the stone floor, its colour, smell and softness will engage with the senses.”

‘40 days’ (2014) by Angela Wright, Southwark Cathedral

Edmund de Waal’s piece, ‘another hour,’ consists of 12 free-standing vitrines, each nearly 7 ft high and holding a single white porcelain vessel. They stand in a serpentine line in the retrochoir at the east end of the cathedral. He describes his work as an “… attempt to make you pause, to stand still and listen in this vast building, to contemplate the changing light and shadow of the space and to reflect on a thousand years of liturgy.”

Edmund de Waal is Professor of Ceramics at University of Westminster. He was born in 1964, and studied English at Cambridge University and ceramics in both England and Japan. He is best-known for large scale installations that have been exhibited in museums around the world. Much of his recent work has been concerned with ideas of collecting and collections; how objects are kept together, lost, stolen or dispersed. His work comes out of a dialogue between minimalism, architecture and music, and is informed by his passion for literature.

He is also known as a writer, and his recent book, The Hare with Amber Eyes, which traces his family history, has been an international bestseller and won many literary prizes.

The Dean of Southwark, the Very Revd Andrew Nunn, says: “We are delighted that we will have two art works – ‘another hour’ and ‘40 days’ – to accompany our journey from Lent to Holy Week and Easter.”

“These events in the life of Jesus are lived almost in real time by the Christian community and especially in the final week before Easter,” Dean Nunn says. “The encounter with the Living God is both in time and eternity and both of these works will help us to enter more deeply into this mystery and reality.”

Angela Wright’s exhibit and her bring to my mind three appropriate images for this season of Lent: Christ as the Lamb of God; Christ as the Good Shepherd; and Christ as the Paschal Lamb.

Tomorrow: The Tomb of Nikos Kazantzakis in Iraklion, Crete.

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