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Art in the Churches

I was up in North Yorkshire last week hoping to walk the fells around Hubberholme and Yockenthwaite in upper Langstrothdale as I had done the year before. Sadly this year the weather was pretty inclement to say the least. Grim, the locals might call it.

I’d picked up some leaflets and information about what’s on in North Yorkshire and one brochure caught my eye. It was for an art trail called Sculpt centred around a group of villages north of Ripon where an organisation called Art in the Churches have installed works of art in seven historic churches. I can’t get enough of visiting churches, particularly small out-of-the-way churches and the little thumbnail photos of some of the installations were intriguing.

The churches are in seven villages around the market town of Masham (what a great market square that is!). The first one I stopped at was St Mary’s in North Stainley where there is a magnificent triptych called Every Small Difference by Sarah Williams. Every Small Difference is about how vulnerable our world is to climate change, our responsibility to protect it and our own vulnerability too.

In St John the Evangelist church, Mickley I came across a wonderful installation by Alexandra Carr called Cloud of Unknowing which is a large perspex cube suspended from the church rafters and lit by red and yellow spotlights. Inside the cube is a dry ice ‘gizmo’ which, once every ten minutes or so, emits a swirling fog of cloud which drifts out of the edges of the cube and envelops the interior of this tiny church.

A short drive further on brought me to the village of Healey and St Paul’s church where I discovered six enormous cocoons suspended from the lantern tower. The title of the work Le Bon Temps Viendra (The good times will come) is the motto of the Harcourt family, who funded the building of Healey church. The cocoons are made from raw materials including woven metal mesh, copper, bronze, brass, steel, glass, silk cocoons, acacia gum arabic, gold leaf and other materials and are the creation of Ana Rosa Hopkins.

Another St Mary’s church is to be found in Masham where its stands on the edge of the enormous and very splendid market square. In St Mary’s I found Neons of Heaven by Silvia Lerin, one hundred bright blue tubes suspended from the church roof. Neons of Heaven represent that moment of encounter with ourselves – and you do encounter yourself when you walk under the tubes. Glance up as you pass and see yourself reflected in the circular mirrors hidden in the base of each tube.

At Snape the next work of art is installed in the chapel of Snape Castle, hidden away around the back of the castle and up a flight of stairs. Here is Wonder and War in Heaven by Jonathan Gibb inspired by the much decayed ceiling fresco in the chapel, painted by Antonio Verrio (1636-1707).

Next up was the church of St Michael the Archangel in the pretty village of Well. When I entered the church it was very dark and very quiet. Not a living soul. Oh, there were souls a-plenty, sure enough but none living. As my eyes got accustomed to the low light I saw Harriet Hill’s amazing Rock of Ages suspended by six fine red cords a foot above the stone floor of the side chapel. It really took my breath away. And then as I approached I came to realise this gargantuan rock was not a rock at all but a boulder made of felted wool interwoven with bits of grass and straw and bits of binder twine over a stout wicker framework. This stone didn’t weigh several tons, more likely several pounds.

The last church on the art trail was West Tanfield and a lovely church called St Nicholas’. The artist here is a chap called Eduardo Niebla and his name sounded very familiar but for the life of me I couldn’t place him. And then it dawned on me. Eduardo Niebla is a musician and fine flamenco guitarist and 30 years ago I designed an album cover for him and fellow guitarist Antonio Forcione for the Virgin Venture record label. The album is called Celebration and very good it is. (Ahem, and a good album cover too).

Niebla’s installation in St Nicholas’ church is a sound installation called The Seven Colours and is a composition about community, combining the sounds of the microcosm of West Tanfield’s community with those of the global community. The sentiment being that mankind should celebrate all communities with their different colours across all seven continents.

Like to hear it? Here it is:

Sculpt is on until 28 September 2019. If you get the opportunity to visit all seven churches or even see just some of the works, I can’t recommend it enough. More details about the art trail can be found on their website here.

And here’s a filmed report on Sculpt by BBC Look North . . .

One thought on “Art in the Churches”

  1. Sue Testar
     ·  Reply

    What a wonderful experience! Perhaps the weather did you a favour this time! I’m also passionate about churches! I’m not particularly religious but they do ground me and these ancient buildings hold our history! If fact recorded it!

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