Sculpture in a Cathedral
When I first visited Portsmouth Cathedral, I saw the wonderful tondo by Andrea Della Robbia. It is a relief sculpture made in the modest material of fired clay. But this small artwork evokes Motherhood, divinity, and fruit, combining the earthly with the divine. Appropriately for a work made of earth itself.
No Two Exactly Alike
Some of the earliest sculptures are representations of divinity. A’a is a representation of a Pacific God, made from sandalwood. He has 30 small figures carved on his body representing features such as the eyes, nose and ears. These figures suggest fertility and A’a’s creative power. There are many sculptures of A’a, and no two are exactly alike.
One figure comprising many is the basis of all of the sculptures in Family Tree. And like the fruit in the Della Robbia tondo, they are connected to nature, using not fruit but the tree.
Vulcan at his forge, creating the mighty thunderbolts for Zeus to cast down on us Hephaestus to the Greeks, he used flame and hammer to both anneal forge and temper strengthen his weapons. A reminder of the power not only of heaven, but also of the earth’s metals transformed. Heat and hammering over coals pushed carbon into the steel and transformed it.
Bronze and Metamorphosis
By combining copper with tin, a new metal was created, transforming bright, soft copper into solid bronze. Much harder to forge, it could be cast into delicate forms. So it might be that metamorphosis inspired art from the beginning. It echoed the transformations visible all around us in the natural world from the changing seasons to birds appearing from eggs.
This new magical metal could bestow a divine power, as Arthur proved by extracting a bronze sword from stone.
Sculpture in the Cathedral
Some art in cathedrals is extraordinarily ambitious like Michelangelo’s Pietà. Others might be more modest like the Della Robbia tondo right here in Portsmouth. Whether made of heavy pure white marble or simply clay, the materials are ‘transformed’ into a story of mothers love. The sculptures I am bringing to Portsmouth Cathedral are all made of steel. The works I will exhibit at Portsmouth Cathedral will be made of steel, perhaps more
We are different but made of the same stardust. Any attempt to divide us into Shia or Sunni, into black or white, into French or Russian is doomed to failure. It is akin to breaking up a family.
Family Tree at Portsmouth Cathedral and the Jack House Gallery – 20 April until 19 May
Launch event at both venues 20 April from 7 – 9pm
The exhibition then travels to Rochester Cathedral, the Francis Iles Gallery and Wells Cathedral.