Over this last year and more, all our lives have been shaken up in unpredictable and often painful ways.
This book brings together the reflections written by Jonathan during the pandemic (and published on this blog), with Alison’s ‘Broken Beauty’ art work, originally exhibited as a reflection on the terrorist attack at London Bridge in 2017. We hope you will enjoy the conversation between words and images.
The Japanese art of Kintsugi works with brokenness. Ceramics that have been damaged are repaired with gold. This is a mending process that acknowledges rather than hides from the past and in so doing takes the risk of something new.
This theme of Broken Beauty is the title of an artist residency in Southwark Cathedral that will take place in May and June 2018 to mark the first anniversary of the London Bridge attack.
Southwark Cathedral was in the centre of the terror and violence of that night and remained closed for a week afterwards. As a member of the congregation, I was deeply aware of how painful the closure would be for the Cathedral staff at the very moment when the cathedral would have wanted to be open for those in need of solace. The fabric of the building had been damaged including external and internal doors. During the Dean’s sermon on the first Sunday after the cathedral was reopened, Andrew Nunn explained how the marks on the Sacristry door would remain as an acknowledgement of what had taken place and this painful event in the life of the cathedral and the local community.
My artist residency includes a specially commissioned work incorporating prints taken from the Sacristy door together with prints from other parts of the cathedral that have been worn and damaged over the centuries, during which time the cathedral has been witness to many periods of violence. Goldwork will be added to the piece as an echo of Kintsugi. This installation will be hung in the RetroChoir from 2nd June 2018 alongside two of my existing pieces on the theme of mourning and healing.
‘Quilt’ combines printmaking and textile as a reflection on mourning. This was first exhibited as a group show in Roundhay, Leeds in the exhibition ‘Word turned upside down’ in 2017, taking a contemporary look at the Beatitudes. This piece was created in response to Jesus’s saying: ‘Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.’ The quilt is made of men’s cotton hankerchiefs. Each square contains a fragile monoprint on tissue paper. Running through each print are gold stitches.
Heirloom continues the theme of broken beauty. Instead of disgarding these broken shells, each has been painted in Japanese Sumi ink and the edges gilded. Sometimes the most important things to pass on are not perfect objects but qualities that strive to find beauty and work for wholeness, to be repairers together. There will be two community events linked to this residency, Mending Circles where participants are invited to bring an item of clothing to sit and mend together (you can book in here (June 4th) or here (June 7th).
Alison Clark is a British artist whose work includes drawing, painting, printmaking and installation. Her work revolves around a sense of place, whether documenting a shoreline or printmaking from the interior of a church building. This she combines with her academic interest in listening. She has exhibited across the UK including an artist residency in St Peter’s de Beauvoir Church, Hackney in 2016 and a solo exhibition in Orkney in 2017, where she is a member of Soulisquoy Printmakers.
What lies beyond belief is very bleak indeed. I had thought myself moderately unshockable, but Nathan Coley’s exhibition at the Pier Arts Centre has put that to the test.
One room, a piece called ‘Unnamed’, consists of gravestones – relatively recent – which have been uprooted, and from which the artist has carefully removed the names of the deceased whom they were to commemorate.
Let’s deconstruct that word – commemorate. To remember together; to hold in the common memory. Gravestones are not graffiti, ephemeral personal messages, of relevance only to those in the same network of taggers or activists. At least, I didn’t think so.
The explanation on the wall of the gallery suggests that removing the names makes these anonymous memorials neutral spaces for recollection – insert your name here and see how it feels.
But what about the people who were buried under these stones? What now lives of them?
When we commemorate the dead, we don’t do so in general – we remember countless individuals, all different, each one unique. On All Souls, many of us in churches will read hundreds of names – each one remembered by name as God knows them by name.
If going beyond belief means going beyond care for those who have died – and especially care for those who have no-one left to remember them personally – then it seems to me we are not only going beyond belief but beyond humanity too.