Mynheer Art

Nicholas Mynheer
Beggar's Roost
4 Ventfield Cottages
Horton-cum-Studley
Oxford UK
OX33 1AP

01865 351340
ndm@mynheer-art.co.uk

site: creativeedge

Blog

Added 3 months ago

13/02/2017

Having just completed a commissioned painting I painted its title on the reverse, 'Blind' Bartimaeus. I put the word 'Bilnd' inparenthesis because Bartimaeus was only physically blind. As Jesus left Jericho, along with a crowd of followers, he passed Bartimaeus who cried out to him. When Jesus asked of him what he wanted, Bartimaeus replied 'to be able to see'. Jesus tells him that his faith has healed him. In my painting (see Gallery painting section) I painted the Glory of God, coming from Heaven through Jesus to Bartimaeus, in yellows and oranges. I painted this same colour into the open eye of Bartimaeus because though he was blind of sight he could truly see God. Jesus 'heals' him giving him physical sight, enabling him to see what the Maker had made as well as he could see the Maker. The figure to the right of Bartimaeus, in my painting, appears to have no eye, for though he can see Jesus and Bartimaeus he does not see God. It is so often so easy to see what the Maker has made but not the Maker.

 

Added 4 months ago

 27th January 2017

 

Yesterday, in this quiet little Oxfordshire village, we laid to rest a gentle lady, a woman in life so modest that even in death I cannot write her name for fear that she would blush to be mentioned. 

She loved the countryside; she loved her garden and her cats; she loved the wild birds and above all she loved God. 

For so many years she served as sacristan to our church of St. Barnabas. When Jesus rose from the tomb she was first at the empty tomb preparing the church for the rest of us to celebrate Easter.

The Eucharist was central to her life and her final wish was that her funeral service should be part of it. 

Here in St Barnabas we hold Christmastide until the Feast of Candlemas and so, during the service,  her coffin was placed in the chancel in between the Nativity crib and the sparkling Christmas tree. She rested amongst us as we took communion. After the service we processed into the frozen air and gathered around the grave. As her coffin was gently lowered into the earth and the priest began to speak a breeze beruffl'd Robin, sitting in a tree less than a metre from me and directly overlooking the grave, began to sing. His voice, so clear and insistent, rose above that of the priest until his song seemed to fill the churchyard and his was the only voice. 

In honour of our friend we had prepared the church to be as beautiful as possible with candles and flowers throughout and with the best gold and silver plate... but all the treasures of the world; all the gold and silver of the world; no king or president or money could have bought what God then provided - a tiny Robin to sing the Te Deum in homage to a modest woman.    O, the magnitude of meekness.

 

Added 6 months ago

 24th November 2016

Living, as I do, on the edge of Otmoor I'm always aware of birds preparing for migration. Thousands of Starlings fly weaving and spinning in vast clouds barely above the field in an exuberant curtain call before they set off for warmer climes.

One morning while I was outside carving recently I found a dead Starling lying on the grass. When I picked it up to admire its beautiful spangled plumage I could find neither broken neck or wing and no apparent feather damage. I placed it in the rubbish bin.

During the night I dreamt about the bird. I saw it flying freely with its fellows, curving and sweeping over the fields. Upon waking I hastened to the bin, retrieved the bird and having carefully cleaned it I took it onto Otmoor where I buried him with dignity.

 

It was a strange coincidence then, that a great friend, Jonathan Stockland, sent me a recent poem of his entitled Migration.

 

Migration

 

Starlings fly South when winter nears;

their flight turns the skies inside out,

as with shrill cries their parabolas

mold the air in a motion

so fluid it has no resolution,

patterning the horizon in black and white

they move onwards towards the light

of their beckoning destination.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

Geese and ducks are noisily direct

in their convinced formations,

tacking frayed chevrons of flight

onto a moving sky, like blazons of heraldry,

as they seek with wavering aim

the long miles' test

and claim of those landfalls

of their resting place.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

We have not the homing instinct of birds;

we are billeted in the land

of the heart's uncertainty,

not knowing what is the travel plan,

or whether to stay, or which way to go.

We wander the long stretches

of the seasons' change and year's turning

without true compass, without natural range.

.   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

In Autumn though, as summer closes,

we do turn our faces towards

the vanishing sun, looking for the one light

to outlast the year's darkening flight;

we do then, as birds do, seeking

a safe haven, so far, so near, found at last

beside us, and within, under the shadow

of wings almost too bright to bear.                            Jonathan Stockland  -  October 2016

 

 

Added 10 months ago

 12th July 2016

Dedication of the Southwell Mister WWI memorial window on Sunday 10th July at 3.30pm.

The cathedral was filled with hundreds of people, many of whom were serving or retired service men or women.

The service started with the Standard of Reconciliation carried by Bugle Major Kieran Robinson RHR leading a procession of standards through the Nave.

A selection of Great War readings, movingly read, preceded Malcolm Archer’s ‘Requiem’ sung by the polished cathedral choir. The Last Post was played by Bugle Major Peter Roebuck on a silver bugle from the Great War (7 Foresters 1917).

With reference to the ‘leaves of Southwell’ and also my carved plaque underneath the window which depicts an angel catching a falling leaf (soldier), thousands upon thousands of oak leaves fluttered silently down from the roof of the cathedral. An extraordinarily moving and symbolic piece of theatre.

Bishop Stephen Oliver dedicated the window and a wreath was laid beneath it. Then moving to the theme of resurrection Siegfried Sasson’s ‘Everyone Sang’ was read before a member of RAF Cranwell’s College Band played the Reveille on a bugle (much as the angel does at the top of the window).

The congregation sang Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ followed by the National Anthem.

With powerful symbolism the military flags and standards were processed past the newly dedicated window, through the Nave and out through the great West doors.

In a final nod to the symbolism of the window (in which we see the Cup of Suffering transformed into a mug of beer in celebration of eternal life) beer and sandwiches was served in the North transept of the cathedral.

The iconography and themes of the window had been reflected in the service itself.

It was a truly moving celebration; in many ways an extraordinary piece of theatre that went from the spine tingling Last Post; the hearty singing of Jerusalem by the hundreds assembled to utter stillness when one could only hear the faintest rustlings of thousands of falling fluttering leaves.

I’m sure that all who were present will never ever forget that service. 

Added 1 year ago

15th April 2016

It was slightly nerve-racking, yesterday morning, walking across the sward to Southwell Minster to view for the first time my newly installed World war One memorial window. For though, in one sense, I had been living with it since its commission back in February 2014 the sheer size of the window meant that at no point could we ( myself, Steve and Dave Cowan glaziers) work on the window in its entirety either in my studio or in their glass studio. Though the Islip glass screen is even larger the monochromatic nature of that project seemed to make it easier to envision. Colour is integral in the Southwell window and particularly the way in which it changes/graduates over the panel. 

I was hugely relieved to find, in my opinion anyway, that the window works; that the colours sit happily together and that it fits into its setting, both with the adjacent window as well as the architecture as a whole.

But, and perhaps for the first time ever with a newly installed work, I found it hard to tear myself away from the window and leave the Cathedral. I felt like a parent leaving his/her child on their first day ever at school; knowing that you must go in order to set them free and yet at the same time struggling to do so.

Added 1 year ago

 March 14th 2016

The Sarum Cycle was installed today in the Crypt of Canterbury Cathedral along with a series of my 'Passion of Christ' sculptures. I've put an image of The Man of Sorrows in the sculpture gallery. Anthony Gormley's splendid dead Christ (made of medieval nails) hangs from the ceiling behind it.

The exhibition is there until 14th April.

Added 2 years ago

13th May 2015

 

A strange day - both joyous and poignant.

This morning to S. Mary's Convent, Wantage for the Requiem Mass to bid farewell to my dear friend Sr Bridget Mary. I'd known Bridget for more than 20 years.  A multi-talented artist and writer, my two sons will probably best remember Bridget for playing football with them (in full habit) when they were very small.

The first time I met her was in her studio at the convent. She was in full welding gear, in the process of repairing some heating pipes for a visiting plumber before turning back to a metal sculpture she was working on.

More recently I took her up to Mucknell Abbey to deliver a sculpture that she had produced and which they were to install.

She was a larger than life character and I will miss her greatly.

Her grave (in a manicured plain grass lawn at the convent) was one of the most beautiful things I'd ever seen. The earth walls of the grave itself were lined with flowers - May blossom and white roses on the sides and yellow roses at the head all interspersed with greenery. There was something very powerful (and at the same time modest) about the idea of the beautiful flowers being covered by the earth.

This afternoon I sat for Jane Dowling to draw my portrait. Jane is rightly proud of her wonderful garden in Charlton-on-Otmoor. Tall Cowparsley dominates creating a three dimensional garden full of wildlife. As I sat on a chair in a small cleared area outside her studio  bees buzzed around me and a blackbird landed nearby as she sketched me in the dappled sunlight. Though it was as if time stood still I knew that I would remember the moment forever - perhaps a May day that I would always think back on.

Added 2 years ago

25th March 2015

Last night saw the second Oxford Lenten music and Art evening. The second half of Arvo Part's extraordinary 'Passio' was performed as well as his haunting Spiegel im Spiegel.

Jonathan Stockland, one of the driving forces of this wonderful of Lenten series, sent me a poem he had written based on my Simon and Jesus sculpture (see sculpture section of my website). It is a very powerful piece capturing in words what I tried to capture in stone.

 

'Nick Mynheer's Simon and Jesus'

by Jonathan Stockland - March 2015

 

They do not stand apart, those two;

like conjoint twins,

one leans to the other

as the hate-full,

slanting slab of that cross beam

pins them together from above,

in their shared yoke of love.

 

Hand on bare shoulder

above the flayed ribs

re-membered in the deep gouges of cloth;

the bare nipple exposed and tender

as the Spirit's dove;

one mouth opens in a gasp of pain,

the other closes his lips in the strength

of His love.

 

Weathered limestone

washed clean by wind and rain

where the mark of the scourge remains-

the sculptor's tool marks the crime;

both seem utterly involved

in one passion, one in a unity

of person, place and time.

Simon's hand and arm clasp

His shoulder, as they both stare ahead,

inward eyes seeing the cross, above

the bone mound of the dead,

the towering tree of Love.

 

Their eyes are drawn down in pity

for all the love to be spent

for generations to come;

for the grief of mothers' calls

for dying children in tents

of desperation, and in streets

of demolition, on borders of despair.

In this one embodied moment

is the pain of the world

they share, and take

upon themselves

for Love's sake.                  Jonathan Stockland - March 2015

 

Added 2 years ago

17th March 2015

This weekend I hung the Sarum Cycle of paintings in the wonderful cancel of Michaelhouse in Cambridge.

This evening sees the start of this years Oxford Lent concert series in The Queen's College chapel, Oxford. More than concerts they are meditations on Our Lord's Passion through Art and music. This evening I will exhibit 5 small oil on paper paintings from the series I'm working on currently based on The Life of Mary. They'll be hung in their entirity January 2016 in Southwell Minster. Nottinghamshire.

The three evening concerts are Tuesday 17th March, Tuesday 24th March, Tuesday 31st March - 6.15pm. The music is Arvo Part's 'Passio' and Spiegel im Spiegel along with John Tavener's ' Chant', 'the Hidden Treasure' and 'Svyati'.

I'm a great fan of Tavener's music and perhaps an even greater one of Part's so I'm looking forward to it.

Added 2 years ago

30th January 2015  The Feast day of Charles I King & Martyr

Having spent the last three months working on a triptych dedicated to Charles I King & Martyr it was a great delight to finally install the paintings in the private chapel of the extraordinary Studley Priory. I have put a picture of the triptych in my Paintings Gallery section.

Charles Ist visited Studley Priory when he came to watch The Battle of Brill.

Central to the design is the chalice; symbolic of Charles' understanding that the mass should be the central act of worship. It was, of course, his adherence to this truth that turns the chalice into his own 'cup of suffering'.

The joy I experienced in the painting of the triptych was tempered by the increasing awareness of the magnitude of Charles' sacrifice.

Thomas Traherne wrote in his Centuries of Meditation (with 17thc spelling):

The Cross of Christ is a Tree set on fire with invisible flame,

That illuminateth all the world. The Flame is Lov.

The Lov in His bosom who died on it.

In the Light of which we see how to possess all the Things

In Heaven and Earth after his Similitude.

For he that suffered on it, was the Son of GOD as you are:

Tho He seemed a Mortal Man.

To this poor Bleeding Naked Man

Did all the Corn and Wine and Oyl,

And Gold and Silver in the World minister in an invisible Manner,

Even as he was exposed Lying and Dying upon the Cross,

Here you learn all Patience, Courage, Lov,

Contempt of the World, Joy, Penitence...

With whatsoever else is requisit for a Man, a Christian or a King.

Ths man Bleeding here was Tutor to King Charles the Martyr.

 

I also came across this extraordinarily moving piece of text...

Monday January 29th 1649

It was a day of ineffable sadness for the king when his two children, Princess Elizabeth, 14, and Prince Henry, 9, came from Syon House to St. James' Palace for a short visit to see their father for the last time. The Princess later wrote:

   'He wished me not to grieve and torment myself for him, for that would be a glorious death he should die, it being for the Laws and liberties of this land and for maintaining the true protestant religion. He told me that he had forgiven all his enemies and hoped God would forgive them also, and commanded us and all the rest of my brothers and sisters to forgive them. He bid me to tell my mother that his thoughts had never strayed from her and his love would be the same to the last. He bid commendation to all his friends.......'

 

At a time when we so often hear the term 'Martyr' the last three months painting have made me dwell on what it truly means to die for your faith.

 

Added 2 years ago

22nd January 2015

The full sized cartoon for the Great War Window (for Southwell Minster, Cathedral of Nottingham) is now complete and ready for going into production. The next stage is the selection of glass and the making of small trial sections. It was wonderful finally seeing the design full size. The drawing looks huge in my studio though the window in Southwell Minster seems relatively modest.

I've just finished the private commission of a large painted triptych for the chapel of a private Manor house. I'm pleased with how it's turned out. Based on the theme of King Charles I, King and martyr the central panel depicts Christ on the Mount of Olives; the Cup of suffering. This is the moment where Jesus says 'Not my will but yours be done'. Jesus (like Charles) is aware that he must take The cup of suffering and he is aware of its consequences.

I'm about to start working again on a series of very small oil on paper paintings based on the life of The Virgin Mary. These are for an exhibition in Southwell Minster in January 2016 dedicated to the Virgin Mary.

Added 2 years ago

16th December 2014 

Our hearts bleed. Two thousands years on and still The Innocents are Massacred.

God bless all those children slaughtered in Peshawar... and have mercy on the Taliban perpetrators; Herod's men.

Added 2 years ago

12th December 2014

Presently I'm enjoying working on a large painted Triptych for the private chapel of a Tudor Manor House. Based on the theme of King Charles, King and Martyr and linking Charles' visit to the house the design reflects on the sacrifice of Charles with Christ on the Mount of Olives.

I'm also currently working on the full size cartoon for the Great War Window for Southwell Minster (Nottinghamshire). It's so large I can't quite lay it out on my studio floor. See the glass section of the website for the coloured design as well as the monochrome cartoon on the studio floor. I'm working on this project with Steven and David Cowan (glaziers) of Sutton Coldfield.

Added 3 years ago

 

1st October 2014

Sunday 28th September saw the dedication of the new font cover Roger Wagner and I produced for Iffley Church in Oxford. Having both produced works for the church ( a window by Roger and an Aumbry by me) we decided to collaborate in designing and producing a new font cover. Having designed it together I produced a clay sculpted centre which Davia Walmsley of Daedalian Glass cast beautifully. The surround was made in pewter by A E Williams of Birmingham and the structure was made by Luke Hughes Design. What appears to be a rather small work was hugely complicated but eventually sucessful (I think).

Added 3 years ago

7th July 2014

Yesterday afternoon saw the dedication of my two sandblasted windows for The Church of St Christopher, Warden Hill, Cheltenham. It was a truly joyous celebration.

The church is a celebration of glass with ten superb coloured windows by Tom Denny and now the two new monochrome panels either side of the entrance.  

Tom's windows are based on Jesus' parables so I decided to use two more parables in my designs. In the right hand panel we see St Christopher wading through the river (of life) carrying a child - unknown to him the Christ child.

Christ opens his arms to wecome the return of the prodigal son (left hand panel) who is also us. At the same time the left hand panel depicts the parable of the good samaritan.

(see images in Glass section)

 

                            

Added 3 years ago

May 29th  2014 (Ascension Day)

The two sandblasted windows for The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham have now been installed (and dedicated). They were commissioned by two Birmingham Primary Schools: St Margaret Mary Catholic School and Christ The King Catholic School. This was the second window that Christ The King school had commissioned.

What extraordinary schools they are. I met with a group of the children (aged 5 to 11) and we developed the designs between us. Daedalian Glass of Lancashire sandblasted them for me.

Presently Daedalian are casting a sculpted Dove panel that I've produced to be part of a new font cover. I've worked with the artist Roger Wagner to design a new cover for Iffley church in Oxfordshire. Roger produced a new window for the church and I carved a stone Aumbry so we thought that it would be nice to collaborate to produce a new font cover.

I was absolutely delighted to be commissioned to produce a new stained glass window for Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire to commemorate The Great War. The design is complete and I shall begin working on the window fairly shortly.

 

 

Added 3 years ago

17th December 2013

Victoria Jones wrote this splendid article about my Islip Glass screen. Her blog is well worth following.

Islip Glass Screen 

the Bishop of Dorchester The Rt Rev'd Colin Fletcher wrote this piece for 'The Door' relating to my Mother & Child sculpture in Beckley Church

Mother and Child

Added 3 years ago

29th November 2013

A busy time at the moment. 2 windows designed for a Church on Chetenham and waiting to start production. I'm also working on designs for another two windows for The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham. Two seperate Primary schools are commissioning the panels. It is extraordinary to be working for such very young patrons!

For the last few weeks I've also been working on a design proposal for a large window for Southwell Minster to commemorate the First World War. I'm on a shortlist of 3 artists for the commission but the subject matter has taken me over. It has been enthralling researching the history of Southwell and The Great War. Many of the reports af the soldiers lives (and deaths) have been so moving that I have found the work both exhilarating and draining at the same time. Of course it would be a huge honour to produce the new window but whatever the eventual choice of artist I feel that it has been a privilege spending time working on the theme. In some very small way I feel that it is a way that I can salute all those who fought; both those who fell as well as those who returned.

Added 4 years ago

Summer Solstice

Finally finished carving 'Veroinca wipes the brow of Jesus' (see Sculpture Gallery).

Ever since I first painted this theme when I produced a set of Stations of The Cross for St. Matthew's Church, Birmingham this theme has haunted me. My dear friend Beamont Stephenson explained to me that the title was really a corruption/ development of the term Veronika, or 'true image'/ true icon. Normally the imprint or image of Christ himself appears in the cloth that Veronica uses to wipe Jesus' brow as he struggles on the road to Calvary.

In my sculpture, however, the cloth that Veronica holds has no image on it. Through her selfless action of wiping Jesus' brow she acts for and as Christ - She has become the very image of Christ.

Added 4 years ago

19th April 2013

Today the new window for Queen Elizabeth Hospital Chapel, Birmingham was dedicated in the most lovely service. The delightful children of Christ The King Catholic School, Birmingham who instigated the whole project sent along 25 of their fellow pupils to the service. They had the vision to commission the window; raising the funds to pay for it; commissioning it and helping with the development of the design.

In the window the two stretcher bearers wear Christ The King School sweatshirts. - for the children in their vision for this project act as stretcher bearers, bearing the viewers to Christ Himself. I reminded them of the words of St. Teresa of Avila - 'Christ has no hands but Yours'.

This week I was reminded how I see parallels all around me with what I read in the Bible. When I looked upon the image of that smiling happy little boy (called Martin) that was killed this week in the Boston Terrorist attack I immediately saw St. Stephen - a face filled with the light and glory of God; a candle burning brightly against a dark background. God bless that boy.

Added 4 years ago

10th April 2013

On Monday had the pleasure of meeting Victoria Jones, a young American visiting Britain with her husband for the first time. Victoria keeps a really fascinating Blog - check it out  http://the jesusquestion.org/ 

Today fitted the new glass panel I'd been working on for the Chapel in Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham. This was a very special commission as it was a Primary School (Chrit The King Primary Schhol, Birmingham) that commissioned the piece. It's the first time that I've ever worked for children and they were a great delight to have as patrons! - see an image of the panel on my Glass Gallery. It will be deicated next week when the children will see it for the first time.

 

 

Added 4 years ago

13th March 2013

It seems to have been a busy Lent in many ways. The series of talks accompanying my Sarum Cycle has now come to a close. Salley Vickers, Sr Frances Dominica, Lord Ian Blair and Lord Richard Harries all took one image from the cycle and talked about it. Each was very different and all were superb speakers. 

The small exhibition of sculpture and painting in the University Church passed happily as did the first night of this Lent's series of Art and Music in The Queen's College Chapel, Oxford University . I exhibited my Simon & Jesus sculpture. The music was four different settings of Psalm 51; settings by Purcell; Kuhnau; Esteves and Gabrielli. Next week the artist showing is Tim Steward and the following week Alison Berrett.

The standard of the performance is always breathtaking and last night was no exception. The acoustic of the chapel suits early music but at the same time demands unbelievably tight and accurate singing and music making.

God was truly glorified last night.

Added 4 years ago

11th February 2013 

Last night saw the first of the series of four speakers responding to 'The Sarum Cycle' Passion of Christ paintings currently on show in Christ Church Cathedral. The author Salley Vickers considered the painting of The Last Supper. She was riveting (in fact you could have heard a rivet drop) as she considered  Christ's last supper and the theme of Betrayal.  She spoke about the nature of this meal and its setting and about Judas' betrayal as well as Peter's denial/betrayal of Christ.

It is always wonderful to hear what others read into one's work and strangely moving (if not a little uncomfortable) when someone understands particular ideas that you have carved or painted. It is as if your very soul has been laid bare....'a sword shall pierce your own heart too'

Sometimes it is as if you have known someone forever

 

Added 4 years ago

5th February 2013 

Today I set up 'The Sarum Cycle' (Passion of Christ paintings) in Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford where it will remain until 9th April (see Exhibition section). It will be a focus for a series of 'After Eight' services in the cathedral at 8pm on Sunday evenings, when four prominent people in public life will reflect on one of the paintings:

10th February - Salley Vickers

17th - Sr Frances Dominica

24th February - Lord  Blair of Boughton

3rd March - Lord Harries of Pentregarth

I will lead meditations on The Passion of Christ using the paintings immediately after tyhe 6pm Eucharit on Thursday 21st February and Thursday 14th March

 

Added 4 years ago

20th December 2012

Today I visited Mirfield Priory to check how my Altar looked installed and to double check that the carving was completely finished. As I've only carved the front section at the moment the rest of the altar has been constructed on a temporary basis until I carve the side sections. A stone back and top will then be fitted. Finally the whole will be mortared to the floor removing the gaps that are presently apparent (see images in my Sculpture section).

As I sat, alone, in the vast yet surprisingly warm, expanse of this extraordinary church the silence was broken by a distant yet clarion - clear call of a cock crowing. It could not have been more perfect; the crowing cock - an early symbol of the Resurrection in this place that is dedicated to the Resurrection. The image I've carved on the front of this new Altar depicts one of the Resurrection appearances; The Supper at Emmaus.

Added 5 years ago

21st November 2012

Finally finished carving the front panel for the new stone altar for Mirfield Priory in Yorkshire.

The design is based on the Supper at Emmaus. Christ breaks bread and is recogised by those around him. This must have been an extraordinary moment and the various reactions to the realisation that Jesus was once again amongst them is reflected in their faces. We see astonishment; we see quiet acceptance (or could it be plain disbelief) and wee see abject horror (in the face rear right).  

Now, we read the account with the acceptance of hindsight - the actual event must have inspired incredulity, ecstatic excitement and perhaps even terror.

I've put an image of the panel in the Sculpture Gallery

Added 5 years ago

22nd October 2012

A while back I designed a Chasuble for St Matthew's Church, Birmingham. Croft Design of Shropshire have just finished making it and I've posted a photo of it on my 'Painting' Gallery.

Croft Design have done a wonderful job. I'm very pleased with how it's turned out! 

Added 5 years ago

10th October 2012:

Having spent the last two months in France I returned to see the House Martins massing on the telegraph wires outside my house preparing for their long flight south to Africa. It's a wonderful sight but one that is always tinged with the sadness that the summer is finally over; a summer in France that was long, dry and very hot.

Missing the Olympics entirely was more than made up for by going to Brands Hatch to watch the Paralmpic cycling and by going to the Mall to watch the Paralympic Marathon running and wheelchair racing. Extraodinary and exciting - the other Olympics could not possibly have compared.

It's strange how after several long term commissions come to a conclusion others seem to appear. I've finally started on the stone Altar for Mirfield Priory; I'm working on designs for a new window for the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham and I'm designing a series of large paintings for a church. Alongside these there are several smaller projects that are all at the early design stage. It seems almost like the start of a new year.

Added 5 years ago

22nd June 2012

I've finally finished carving 'The Runner-Up' (Man of Sorrows) and put an image in the Sculpture Gallery. It's for an exhibition to be held in the Bow street Methodist Church, London from 23rd July - 1st September called ' Reaching Beyond'.

This piece is based on the idea of the athlete who, having trained much of his /her life for the Olympics, fails to make the final, perhaps going out in the first round or who perhaps fails to make the Olympic team selection.

To a world obsessed with medal tables and massive expectation placed on those who often a few months before were completely unknown (and often unsupported) anything less than Gold is failure.

I also see this figure as 'The Man of Sorrows', Jesus awaiting execution. Jesus, in the eyes of his disciples, must have seemed the ultimate failure. He who promised to save the Jews; who could save others but could not save himself.

And yet if we look beyond the immediate we see....the athlete who has reached beyond him or herself to achieve a place in the world arena. Similarly if we look beyond the crucifixion we can see, as did Jesus' disciples at the Supper at Emmaus, that Jesus was not the ultimate failure but rather the supreme victor.

Added 5 years ago

21st June 2012

You expect Midsummer's Eve to be magical and it has not disappointed me. This morning I installed the New Altar I designed for the Church of St Mary, Kiidlington. It was made by James Binning (of Deep in Wood) and Peter Street.

The design of the Altar is inspired by the medieval 'Weeping' Chancel of the church itself. The asymmetric design echoes the medieval stone arches and the slight tension resulting from their juxtaposition.

Standing at the back of the Nave looking eastwards in St Mary's it is difficult to find the visual centre point of the East end because of the sloping angle of the chancel. I have reflected this in the Altar design. Whilst the outer edges of the feet form a perfect rectangle they meet at different points where they reach the top - challenging the viewer to find the Altar's visual centre.

The left leg juts through the Altar top making a cross shape when viewed from the front.

A stainless steel candle holder has been set into the Altar top surrounded by the words 'I AM THE LIGHT'.

I see it as a sculpture that serves as a table and as a table that has been transfigured into a piece of sculpture; an echo of the change of wine into the Blood of Christ.

I wanted it to be a celebration of the material from which it is constructed; English Oak and through its simplicity serve to Glorify God.

As a baby I was baptised in the Norman Tub font - half a century on it is with a sense of great privilege that I can give something back to this church.

Added 5 years ago

14th june 2012

Yesterday I saw  two young men walking along a street. As I passed them in my car I saw that one was leading the other, a clearly mentally disabled young man, by the hand. It suddenly occured to me that Angels appear in many guises and here was one. It was hours later that I suddenly felt unsure about which one was the Angel.

Added 5 years ago

24th May 2012

What a magical day. Lunchtime I met up with some pupils from Christ the King Catholic School, Birmingham in Queen Elizabeth Hospital Birmingham. They've raised a huge amount of money which they've decided to commission a work of glass art to be sited in the new Hospital chapel. We discussed our ideas together and came to the conclusion that it should be based on Christ's Healing Miracles. It is a very special commission....afterall how often are you commissioned by primary school children? It is a huge honour to be part of their vision and enthusiasm and I am determined to produce something that they will be proud to have been part of.

Late afternoon and evening I spent visiting the furniture designer/maker Philip Koomen. I first saw Philip's work 20 years or more ago in an exhibition in Mallams, Oxford. I was bowled over by the staggering beauty of his pieces. I actually met him for the first time briefly at a talk I was doing at Dorchester Abbey (where incidentally he'd just installed new choir-stalls). Having the chance to look at his work in the studio first hand was very exciting. I am a huge fan of his work. Extraordinary how some people you feel that you have known all your life...

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23rd May 2012

A fun morning working with 5 and 6 year olds at Christ Church Cathedral School on an 'artweeks' project. A wonderful little school - their classroom, light and airy, was bursting full of their art hanging from the ceiling and walls.

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14th May 2012

Yesterday I went with friends to evensong at the church of St James the Great, South Leigh in Oxfordshire.   Nothing prepared me for what I was to behold upon entering the diminutive medieval church - the most extraordinary medieval wall paintings. On the chancel arch a complete Doom with souls rising from the dead heading Heavenward on the North side whilst those on the South side were being herded into the jaws of Hell. Further round on the South wall the most exquisite 'Weighing of Souls' I have ever seen.

A bright sunny and warm evening, the church was further lit up as the visiting choir, The Sine Nomine Singers launched into Thomas Tallis' 'If ye love me'.  It was one of those extraordinary moments when you see Heaven on Earth.

The 'Services Window' that I designed for Abingdon School chapel (see image on the Glass gallery) features a solitary soldier looking up to the sky to behold a vapour trail cross made by a modern fighter jet and a World War II spitfire. It is as if he, like the Centurion in the gospels, looks up at Christ's cross and says, 'Surely this man was the Son of God'.

A friend, Jonathan Stockland, having seen the image of this window sent me this poem that seems to capture that very moment.

VAPOUR TRAILS

Vapour trails table patterns in the sky,

dividing that high territory

by their linear geometry of destination;

such brief, unnatural conjunctions surprise us.

Dragged in the wake of man's

propelled silver pencils,

they cross their soft calligraphy

in straight patterns, scoring the atmosphere

as they travel with such intent

towards the diminishing arc of the horizon,

to a vanishing point of no return,

a landing place out of site.

Unlike the aerial graffiti of swifts,

or the clouds' ever soft-changing inconstancy,

they cross the tilted vision precisely,

for a few moments, branding

the sky with the saints' symbol,

in a brief statement of prophecy.

Their duration is dependent

on our perspective, and on our inclination;

they make their marks on a bare blue ground,

stay until we turn our face away,

or nameless winds feather them

into the frail contortions of space,

until they fade

into eternity.

-    Jonathan Stockland   March 2010   -

                

 

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28th April 2012

Last night saw the dedication of the Abingdon Chapel Windows. The whole evening was a joyous event.

The well crafted service was led by the Right Reverend John Pritchard, Bishop of Oxford whose humility, humour and clear vision surely reflects the Grace of God. The composer Simon Whalley composed an anthem especially for the occasion. He brilliantly reflected my three term window themes (Michaelmas term, Lent term and Summer term) in his anthem, dividing it into three parts; Emmanuel, Epiphany and Easter. As you would expect from him, it was a work of extraordinary depth and distinctly his.

I remember when my little painted triptych of John the Baptist was installed in the chapel of St John's College Oxford a wonderful anthem by Orlando Gibbons was performed. I remarked upon its beauty to the chaplain who replied - 'yes the college commissioned him to write it when he was here x hundred years ago!'

Back in 2004 the first window of the cycle (The Trinity Window) was dedicated by the then Bishop of Oxford, Richard Harries. Eight years on the cycle of ten windows is complete.

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26th April 2012

Finally.....all the new windows for Abingdon School Chapel are now installed - just in time for the Dedication service tomorrow evening. The ten windows, alternating between full coloured fused windows and monochrome windows tie the School year and the Church year together.

Credit must go to Davia Walmsley and all at Daedalian Glass who made them for me. It has been a marvellous project to have worked on and a commission that I feel particularly privileged to have received.

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18th April 2012

Finally the last windows for Abingdon School chapel are being fitted. By the middle of next week the complete series should be installed. The whole project has taken so many years that it will feel strange not having it there with me every day. I have waited a very long time to see the cycle complete.

I called on  Jane Dowling today to see a painting of John the Baptist that she is currently working on. Her multi layed tempera paintings are quite extraordinary - ethereal.

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14th March 2012

My friend Roger Wagner and I met up with Sister Wendy Beckett this morning. Sr Wendy was filming in The Ashmoleum for The One Show. It has been a few years since we last met and although she describes herself as 'frail now' she was in excellent form. She has an extraordinarily perceptive eye for Art and is gifted in being able to both read a work of art as well as communicate something of it in a straight forward direct manner. It is no wonder that she has become so universally popular.

She is also enormous fun. The three of us roared with laughter time and again as we talked about life and work.

I think Roger summed it up when, talking afterwards, he said that she is one of those people who make you happier for having spent time with them.

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5th March 2012

It was nice to revist Blythburgh again on Saturday. My sculpture of the Trinity in the porch niche has now mellowed in colour from the stark white is was when installed to a warm buff colour that sits more happily with the surrounding stonework. Looking back it was an extraordinary commission to get. The niche had been empty since Cromwell's troops had removed the original sculpture (though it may well have been empty since the Reformation in the 16thc). Money had been bequeathed to commission a sculpture based on the Trinity to be fitted into the niche.

The current exhibition in the church 'Journeying towards Easter' features my work alongside work by Brian Whelan, Iain McKillop and Laurence Edwards. It was a delight to meet Laurence Edwards as we have exhibited together in various exhibitions over the years without ever meeting. His work, largely bronze, is very powerful indeed. His 'Beast of Burden', exhibited in this show, reminded me of Herne the Hunter as well as Christ Crucified. It has a primitive feel to it.

During the afternoon a walk on Aldburgh beach to see Maggie Hambling's splendid beach placed sculpture reminded me of my first meeting with the artist Jane Dowling (wife of Peter Greenham). Walking with Roger Wagner, Mark Cazalet and Richard Kenton Webb we happened upon Jane as she sat painting on the pebble beach. After introductions by Roger we continued on and duly flew kites in the stiff breeze.

A year or so later at an exhibition of Jane Dowling's in a London gallery I noticed one of those same beach paintings featured us all in the distance flying kites (a red kite if I recall). At the time I could not afford to buy the picture but all these years on it is probably the work of art that I would most like to own or at least see again.

 

 

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Feb 27th     2012

Just been to see Roger Wagner's new stained glass window (with him) in Iffley Church, Oxfordshire. It balances the John Piper window opposite beautifully. It really is a fabulous window; a sort of 'flowering Rood' in the most vibrant colours. Quite a coincidence that two more of my windows for Abingdon School chapel are being fitted this week as well!

It was hoped that the three full colour fused windows would also be fitted this week but they're not completed yet - so it looks like it will be Easter now - very disappointing but not entirely surprising!

 

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February 16th     2012

The 'Services' window fitted today in Abingdon School chapel. I think that it might be an unusual window inasmuch as though celebrating the three Forces (Air Force, Army and Royal Navy) the main figure depicted is in modern (albeit slightly stylised) Afghanistan uniform.

 

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January 27th    2012

Still a few final adjustments on the Abingdon Chapel window designs and the enjoyable business of checking glass samples as Davia (the extraordinary Glass artist) sends me through sections to comment on. The deadline for getting it all finished and installed approaches fast.

Recently I went to see progress on Roger's (Wagner) new window that he's producing for Iffley Church. A sort of 'Flowering Rood' it will sit directly opposite John Piper's super Nativity Window (probably my favourite Piper window). It's going to be a very beautiful window. It's exciting to think that both of us will have work in the church. Talking of Piper I've got to write a talk for the John Piper Conference happening in Dorchester Abbey later in the Spring, entitled ' the Artist & the Church in the 21st century'...gulp.

George Wightman (poet) sent me another poem that I think is quite wonderful. It's always very moving and sometimes almost disturbing when someone else expresses what is in your own heart; exciting and disarming at once.

LIGHT

The child views with delight

Each flake of falling snow.

His world in its first light

Saints and slinky foxes know.

Old now his weakened sight

Sees hills at sunset glow.

The earth in its last light

Grace holds while shadows grow. copyright G.B.H. Wightman

 

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Jan 23rd    2012

For some years now I've had a copy of the poem 'English Seasons' by the poet George Wightman on my studio wall. Its eight lines span, for me, not only the changing seasons of the country year but also the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ himself. In its simplicity lies not just the extraordinary beauty of Nature but a great hymn of praise to God. What God has created turns and praises. This poem captures in a few words what I have spent the last thirty years trying to say through paint, stone and glass.

'ENGLISH SEASONS'

'Praise the spring when the land

Is loved back to life

Praise the summer when the land

Flowers with love

Praise the autumn when the land

Bears the fruit of love

Praise the winter when the land

Sleeps in love that lives forever.' copyright: G.B.H.Wightman

When I painted 'Harvest' (in the Paintings gallery) I had the third couplet in my mind. My painting depicts the harvesting of apples (being lowered in a basket) but it is also the deposition of Christ's body from the cross. Christ is the 'fruit of love'.

Similarly, in my 'Sarum Cycle' when I painted 'The Stillness', in which we see the dead body of Christ lying under the earth, I had in my mind the last two lines of George Wightman's poem, 'Praise the winter when the land - Sleeps in love that lives forever.'

It's as if he as a poet works like I do as an artist, paring down words until only what really matters remains. His few remaining words cut like Simeon's sword straight to the heart. One has the sense that, like Blake's 'Tyger', the words were not written in any normal sense but that they were always there.

For some years now I've had a copy of the poem 'English Seasons' by the poet George Wightman on my studio wall. Its eight lines span, for me, not only the changing seasons of the country year but also the birth, life, death and resurrection of Christ himself. In its simplicity lies not just the extraordinary beauty of Nature but a great hymn of praise to God. What God has created turns and praises. This poem captures in a few words what I have spent the last thirty years trying to say through paint, stone and glass.

'ENGLISH SEASONS'

'Praise the spring when the land

Is loved back to life

Praise the summer when the land

Flowers with love

Praise the autumn when the land

Bears the fruit of love

Praise the winter when the land

Sleeps in love that lives forever.' copyright: G.B.H.Wightman

When I painted 'Harvest' (in the Paintings gallery) I had the third couplet in my mind. My painting depicts the harvesting of apples (being lowered in a basket) but it is also the deposition of Christ's body from the cross. Christ is the 'fruit of love'.

Similarly, in my 'Sarum Cycle' when I painted 'The Stillness', in which we see the dead body of Christ lying under the earth, I had in my mind the last two lines of George Wightman's poem, 'Praise the winter when the land - Sleeps in love that lives forever.'

It's as if he as a poet works like I do as an artist, paring down words until only what really matters remains. His few remaining words cut like Simeon's sword straight to the heart. One has the sense that, like Blake's 'Tyger', the words were not written in any normal sense but that they were always there.

 

Added 5 years ago

January 18th   2012

Having just finished checking the full size drawings for the 'Services' Window for Abingdon School I've taken the opportunity of a break between commissions to start a few other things. I've started carving ' Veronica wipes Christ's brow' (Caen stone) as well as working on several paintings that I've been wanting to start for a while. One of the paintings is a strange image of what I call 'Old Father Christmas'. With a little research reading I realised that the reason I always think of Father Christmas as 'Old' Father Christmas has its roots in the 17th century English Puritan's objections to the figure of Father Christmas. To give the idea that he had been around (as he indeed had) for some time those of a not so religious fervour referred to him as 'Old' in their effort to stop the Puritans banning him.

 

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Jan 13th    2012

A friend sent me a very touching picture of her granddaughter reaching up and placing her hand into the hand of one of my sculpted Angels in Iffley Church. It hadn't occured to me that the stone hand is in fact about the size of a small child's hand and just about within reach. Apparently another very small child when lifted up to look at the angels did exactly the same thing; she reached out and held the hand of the Angel.

It's wonderful how children respond to Art; instinctively. That simple gesture meant more to me as the artist than any rave review or artistic praise.

I remember some years back, taking my sons (when they were very small indeed) to the Biennale in Venice. their response to some of the Art was nothing short of hilarious - I'm only amazed that we didn't get thrown out. In one room a Japanese artist had filled the floor with rice and placed a pair of shoes in it also filled with rice - too much for a small child to resist. RMy youngest son immediately took off his own shoes and filled them with rice. Another gallery had a video installation playing by a Dutch artist that was nothing short of gruesome. After 30 seconds or so watching it the two boys roared uncontrollably with laughter and continued until everyone else in the room joined in laughing - initially at them then gradually with them at the video.

Children respond in ways that often take us by surprise. Thank God for that.

A piece by the poet Thomas Traherne comes to mind:

'You never enjoy the world aright, till you see how a sand exhibiteth this wisdom and power of God.

Suppose a river, or a drop of water, an apple or a sand, an ear of corn or an herb: God

knoweth infinite excellencies in it more than we: He seeth how it relateth to angels and

men; how it proceedeth from the most perfect Lover to the most Perfectly Beloved.

An ant is a great miracle in a little room and no less a monument of eternal love than

almighty power.

You never enjoy the world aright till the sea itself floweth in your veins, till you are

clothed with the heavens and crowned with the stars.

You are as prone to love as the sun to shine.' - Thomas Traherne

 

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January 10th     2012

Whilst waiting for the go-ahead to start working on the Qatar sculpture project (and the Mirfield sculpture project and the Kidlington Altar) and whilst the Abingdon Windiows are in production - I've been painting and sculpting. I'm carving 'Veronica wiping the brow of Christ '. This will be part of the Passion series that I started some time back. So far I've carved 'Simon and Jesus' (Simon of Cyrene helping Christ carry his cross) as well as 'The Deposition'. The series will be ten or so pieces. The themes have not all been decided on yet.

 

 

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Jan 6th    2012

Epiphany - the time when we remember the arrival of the Magi. Datewise, I have always associated the feast of The Epiphany with the Massacre of the Innocents. Nowadays in the Church of England Holy Innocents day seems to be marked on the 27th December. I've just read somewhere that the two feast days were indeed originally on the 6th January so perhaps I grew up with that understanding (not that it matters one jot what day we remember them; merely that we do).

I like Christina Rossetti's poem about the Massacre of the Innocents -

Unspotted lambs to follow the one Lamb,

Unspotted doves to wait on the one Dove;

To whom Love saith, 'Be with Me where I am,'

And lo! their answer unto Love is love.

For tho' I know not any note they know,

Nor know one word of all their song above,

I know Love speaks to them, and even so

I know the answer unto Love is love.

 

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January 2nd   2012

I have just returned from celebrating Christmas and the arrival of the New Year in Switzerland. One of the highlights, for me, was the extraordinary cowbell ringing on the eve of Cristmas eve and on the eve of New Year's eve. A dozen or so hardy young men processed around the village (Schonenberg) each with two huge cowbells hanging from a yoke around their shoulders. As they walked the bells clanged. The cacophonous ensemble processed around the village throughout the night stopping only for beer. As the Swiss celebrate Christmas eve with their main Christmas meal this procession occured on the 23rd and similarly with the eve of New Year; the pre-Christmas ringing serving to drive out evil spirits whilst the pre-New Year ringing welcomed the good spirits in.

The other highlight was standing by Schonenberg church as a full peel of bells rang in the New Year. Looking down over lake Zurich fireworks, as far as the eye could see, lit up the black starry night land illuminating the growing cordite fog over the lake. Directly in front of where we stood flickered little red candles on graves in the cemetery. It was as if all those who had gone before joined with us as we stood with hearts uplifted and hopes for the New Year. Those little red lights seemed slightly at odds with the Protestant church next to us and protestant difficulty in accepting that we all - dead and living - are one in Christ. We lit Chinese lanterns and as if by divine intervention they duly rose into the black night and drifted in perfect succession over the lakeside villages towards the lake - a magical night.

 

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December 21st     2011

Two more windows fitted for Abingdon School Chapel. The remaining five should be fitted by the end of February. Daedalian Glass are doing a good job of making the windows (as well as fitting them).

I'm presently working on a painting of the Holy Family. It's a painting I started a year or so ago but didn't like so had left unfinished. It's wonderful when you can attack a painting with fresh eyes and with a lack of respect for what you'd already done. It almost always leads to something exciting happening. Whilst working on it I've been listening to Howard Goodall's 'Enchanted Carols' and specifically his 'Lullaby of Winter' which seems to echo the painting exactly. It is a magical piece hinting at the deep unspeakable mystery that is Christmas. Howard Goodall, in the music's accompanying booklet, tells us that the composition of all the music on this Christmas selection was all done in the 'baking heat of a French summer'. When I read that it reminded me of a time that I sat painting in the searing heat of a Burgundy garden. I had started a painting of the Holy family in a bright summer setting. Suddenly I knew that should rather be the Holy family on the Flight to Egypt in moonlight. I retired indoors to finish the painting.

This time so deep in the darkness of Winter always seems a time of change. Two friends, unknown to each other and a generation apart have died in these last two weeks. One a young man of 30 (Dan Male) the other an elderly lady (Kay Ireland) - united in their extraordinary positivity, never ever complaining, setting the example of truly loving their neighbour and always putting others before themselves.

 

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December 6th  Feastday of St. Nicholas  2011

To celebrate this day, which I always feel is the start of preparation for Christmastide, I've put an image of St Nicholas onto the Glass Gallery. It's a white crayon on black paper study for the Islip Glass Screen. It was the image I created for the double doors in the glass screen. Sunday school children go through these doors so I thought that it should be read not only as St Nicholas raising the three little children from the dead but also as Christ saying 'Let the little children come unto me'.

 

Added 6 years ago

Nov 10th    2011

I'm working on a painting at the moment. I haven't painted for a while and it seems wonderfully decadent compared to standing outside hitting stone with mallet and chisel. It's a Nativity scene with Mary and Joseph holding theChrist child joyously aloft. Mary holds him under his arms so that his arms are outstretched hinting of the crucifixion to come. The stone animal feed trough beneath (with straw in) appears like an empty tomb linking the scene to the resurrection as well. It's at that awkward stage when I don't know if it's going to work as a painting or not.

 

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November 7th    2011

Having just spent the most extraordinary week in Morocco it is a shock to return to the cold damp of England. The High Atlas mountains were definately the highpoint (literally).

The call to prayer (at 5.17am each morning) was an impressive reminder of the devotion of so many muslims. I'm not sure how well received ringing the village church bells at 5.17am each morning would be ...or indeed how popular only allowing Christians in to visit cathedrals and churches would be (in Morocco you are only allowed in to visit a mosque if you are a muslim).

 

Added 6 years ago

Oct 27th   2011

Spent the last couple of days designing sculptures for my series on The Passion of Christ. I design almost unconsciously - often when I turn the page of my sketch book I forget what I've designed. I've got into the habit of going back through my sketchbooks on a regular basis to see what I've designed that I might have forgotten about. The only reason that I don't think that it's the early stages of Dementia is becaue I've always been the same. This morning was a case in point - having spent the last day or so working on a design for Christ falling I chanced to check my last sketchbook (only finished a few months back) and found several pages of similar designs - only more refined and successful. I'm never quite sure whether to be annoyed or delighted!

As I look through my sketchbooks for earlier thoughts on particular themes I often find designs that I had forgot about completely. Sometimes they are quite finished designs for paintings or sculptures. I suppose that in reality I design six or seven things to every one that I produce.

My sketchbooks are the most organised part of my life. I have used the same style book for the last 15 or 20 years. Each page is numbered and every sculpture, glass project and painting and every commission that I've worked on is in the sketchbooks.

 

Added 6 years ago

Oct 19th    2011

Finished the final design for The Services Window for Abingdon School chapel. Celebrating the Royal Air Force, The Royal Navy and the Army it commemorates the lives given by Old Boys of the school as well as acknowledging those who currently serve in our forces ( and indeed those who will do so in the future).

Yesterday I partook of the annual ritual of sweeping the house chimney in order to light the first fire of the year. Ironic that such a powerful symbol of cleaning should be so dirty to do. It seems to mark a point of change in the year; when we start to look towards Hallowtide and eventually Christmas.

It reminds me of the last verse of a children's poem by Leonard Clark, 'Hallowe'en' -

'This is the night when angels go

In and out the houses, winging o'er the snow;

Clearing out the demons from the countryside

They make it new and ready for Christmastide.'

The only year that I failed to sweep the chimney before the first fire led to the Fire Brigade arriving at the same time as my dinner guests.

 

Added 6 years ago

Oct 13th    2011

The Depositionof Christ sculpture is just about finished. I've put an image on the Sculpture Gallery. A brief explanation of it can be found under the entry for 21st September.

It's in Caen stone. Caen stone is nice to carve; not as hard as Portland and not quite as easy as Tervoux. I was planning to make the Font and Stations of the Cross (for Qatar) in Tervoux but the Caen seems better quality presently and as it's very similar indeed in colour it looks as if it will be Caen stone.

Also just finishing off sketch for the last window design for Abingdon School. This particular window is to celebrate the Royal Air Force; The Royal Navy and the Army and all the Old Boys who served or presently serve in the forces.

 

Added 6 years ago

Oct 7th   2011

My Holy Family sculpture is now sitting happily outside the Church of St Matthew, Perry Beeches, Birmingham. I shall miss seeing it every morning as I look across my garden towards Otmoor but I've enjoyed having it with me for so long. I've put an image of it in the Sculpture gallery. It fascinates me how a sculpture looks different, somehow, in a different setting. Because it had sat outside for some years the stone has weathered and coloured. It has the benefit of not looking too new in its new setting but rather appearing as if it might have always been there.

St Matthew's Church also has a painted set of Stations of the Cross that I produced as well as an Altar frontal that I designed. I remember that for the dedication of my Stations Fr Simon enlisted Andrew Parrott and his Tavenor (?) Singers to ' perform' the Stravinsky Mass. It was an incredible experience that I shall never forget; sublime music working truly as part of the worship accompanied by the crying of babies and shuffling of feet - sounds all mingling together with clouds of incense in an extraordinary reverie. The priest Simon Mackenzie has commissioned a number of other interesting fittings. He was also instrumental in the commissioning of Jonathan Dove to compose the opera 'Tobias and The Angel'. It's first performance was in the church. The Almeida Theatre then performed it. The open vast architecture of the church suited this most extraordinary opera.

 

Added 6 years ago

Oct 6th   2011

Yesterday visited Daedalian Glass to see how the Abingdon Windows are progressing. The fused samples are beautiful; very nearly there. There's a lot of windows to make though... The whole cycle of windows have to be installed by next Easter.

Today spent the day carving a Deposition of Christ in Caen stone. I've been working on this on and off for some time now. It will be one of a series of sculptures that I plan to produce based on Christ's Passion. So far this is only the second in the set; the first being Simon of Cyrene helping to carry Christ's cross (hopefully on it's way back from exhibition in Germany). I've also started drawing up the Stations of the Cross fullsize for The Church of the Epiphany, Qatar. It's often only when you see things drawn up fullsize that you realise how much work will be involved.

Tomorrow I'm installing my Holy Family sculpture into the churchyard of St Matthew's Church, Perry Beeches, Birmingham. Finally my Holy Family (having spent years in my garden) have found room in the Inn.

 

Added 6 years ago

October 3rd   2011

Just returned from four very sunny days in the far West of Cornwall. On the return journey stopped off on Bodmin Moor to visit the mystical and atmospheric Dozmary Pool, the pool into which Sir Bedevere returned Excalibur.

My exhibition in Regensburg finishes today - shame didn't get round to visiting it - I would have like to have seen it.- I especially like the work of Peter Howson.

Back in 2003 I designed a set of large stone Stations of the Cross and a font for a new church being built in Doha, Qatar to be dedicated to the Epiphany. Over the last few years the church has been being built. I heard this morning that the church will be dedicated at Epiphany 2013 and I am to produce the font and set of Stations. I'm delighted about this because I had carved a stone machette of one of the Stations and was very excited about the prospect of seeing them full size. The larger size (than I usually work) will, I think, allow me to be more absorbed in each Station.

 

Added 6 years ago

Sept 26th   2011

An interesting morning being interviewed for the BBC Culture Show in connection with the English Heritage Angel Awards. Producer, Presenter and crew all truly delightful. It certainly was nice to visit The Church of The Good Shepherd in Nottingham again. My stone Stations of The Cross have now been there ten years and I must say that they still look fresh; the pale Tervoux limestone still clean. It really is an absolutely splendid church with stunning glass by Patrick Reyntiens. It was especially nice to meet Fr Frank McLaughlin again who commissioned the carvings and clearly has been hugely influencial in the upkeep and indeed development of that church.

 

Added 6 years ago

Sept 22nd   2011

I have just been introduced to the work of the Scottish poet Norman MacCaig by my friend Simon Mackenzie. One particular stanza of MacCaig's stuck in my mind,

'A boy skips flat stones out to sea - each does fine

till a small wave meets it head on and swallows it.

The boy will do the same.'

I read today of the tragic deaths of a number of Peruvian school children after eating food contaminated with poison. One boy was named - nine year old Miguel Angel. The poem cut me like the sword of Simeon.

 

Added 6 years ago

Sept 21st   2011

Yesterday I started work again on a sculpture of The Deposition of Christ that I started earlier in the year. The Caen stone has dried out over the summer and now makes an entirely different sound as I carve it; more like the ping ping of Portland. The inverted body of the dead Christ is being lowered by a soldier (possibly) into the receiving arms of his mother (possibly). There is no cross present - the upright of the cross being represented by the almost vertical body of Christ.

I came across this text yesterday (actually from 'As You Like it' but also inscribed by Samuel Palmer on his 'The Valley with a Bright Cloud')

'This our life, exempt from public haunt,

Finds tongues in trees, books in ye running brooks,

Sermons in stones,and good in everything.'

Also, yesterday, I was delighted to discover that The Church of The Good Shepherd in Nottingham had been nominated for The English Heritage Angel Awards. Back in about 2001 I was commissioned to produce a set of fourteen stone Stations of The Cross for this beautiful church. The glass in the church is all by Reyntiens and is very special indeed. The very large modern largely concrete building has had to have a huge amount of restoration work done on it over recent years and it is indicative of the faith and determination of its congregation that it has been able to raise the money to do it.

 

Added 6 years ago

Sept 15th   2011

I can't believe it - I'm actually working on the final window design for Abingdon School. My friend Davia Walmsley is busy (or at least I hope she is) working on the coloured fused window designs that I've already given her. This final window will not have any colour; it will be completely sand-blasted. The theme is the 'Services' (Air Force, Army and Navy). A solitary young soldier stands facing to the left (acknowledging the existing war memorials on the chapel wall) but he looks up to see a cross in the sky (made by the vapour trails of two fighter planes). This is a reference to the Faith of the Centurian who looking up at the crucified Jesus declaring that 'this was truly the Son of God'. The soldier stands in a ploughed field (for me symbolic of both a torn world and at the same time a symbol of the hope of new life). Behind is a plough - refering to the 'turning of swords into ploughshares'.

Having drawn a ploughed field this morning I walked onto Otmoor and watched a lone tractor ploughing.

I find, more and more, that my work seems to echo the particular season in which it is produced. Because of where I live (on the edge of Otmoor) the landscape and sky dominate my surroundings. There are not many buildings near me and the small lane that runs to the house carries no passing traffic. I am always aware of the sky and the changing light. I think that, often, without even being aware of it my work responds to the changing seasons and the weather.

 

Added 6 years ago

Sept 8th   2011

Back in the UK after having spent July and August in France. Presently working on a private stone commission and trying to design the final windows for the Abingdon School chapel.

The exhibition in Regensburg, Germany continues until later this month. The curator sent me various press cuttings reviewing the exhibition but as my German is nil I cannot read them - probably just as well. Many of the artists including my friends, Tom & Bennita Denny, Roger Wagner, Mark Cazalet and Richard Kenton Webb managed to get there for the opening - sadly I did not. Neither did I manage to get back to the UK for my dedication of the Islip Glass Screen by the Archbishop of Canterbury on the 10th August. A few days later though I found myself flying back (for a day) to attend a friend's funeral.

 

Added 6 years ago

June 28th   2011

Yesterday delivered sculptures and paintings to Gloucestershire ready for them to be shipped to Germany for the exhbition in Regensburg near Munich which starts in July.

One of the great delights about having artist friends is that you can swop work with each other. I swopped work yesterday with Richard Kenton Webb. His recent work is astonishing and I was absolutely delighted to drive home with some exquisite lino prints.

 

Added 6 years ago

June 22nd   2011

My style of painting and sculpting is very much a linear one. Line is the starting point and is never lost. Whether painting, designing or carving, it is the curved line that predominates.

It never ceases to amaze me how the merest curve of a paintbrush or chisel can capture profound sorrow or unspeakable joy in a way that words rarely can. The slightest change of angle in, for instance, the drawing of an eye can change the mood from sadness to deepest suffering.

When carving a curve in stone, holding the chisel in the left hand and the mallet in the right, one uses the left elbow as a pivot to produce the perfect curve. Drawing a beautiful curve is immensely satisfying; carving one fills me with ecstatic joy. There is a sense that the curve is being felt into being.

It has taken me years to realise that curves whether drawn, painted or carved (and regardless of size) are perfect when they are related to the human mechanical process of making them. The graceful line of The Millau bridge (Norman Foster) must have been born from a sweeping pencil line at some stage. Coincidentally, the lines of the Millau bridge are similar to that of a Laguiole knife (from the same region of France).

One of the most beautiful works of Art I have ever seen was in the Museum of religious Art in Dijon, France; a 13th century Corpus of Christ. The crucified body, wracked with pain, comprises of a series of interlocking curves; intensely beautiful yet agonisingly painful at the same time. It is this sense of linear beauty combined with the tension born out of the juxtaposition of curves that I hope to capture in my Altar design for St. Mary's Church, Kidlington.

 

 

Added 6 years ago

June 21st   2011

Trying to sort the paintings and sculptures that are going off to Germany for the exhibition in Regensburg. The exhibition doesn't open until July 23rd but the work's being picked up shortly.

 

 

Added 6 years ago

June 13th   2011

Last night saw the dedication of my Guardian Angel sculpture for St Edward's School chapel during the school Compline service. As the students left the chapel they were encouraged to lay their hands on the sculpture - a lovely idea; the dedication became a welcome.

Still a few final touches on the glass screen at Islip. This morning Davia Walmsley from Daedalian Glass sand-blasted a few small areas to finish off the sand-blasting. It's remarkable that it didn't need any more work in situ on the sand-blasting. One never quite knows, until the work is actually installed, whether it really is finished or not. Just the lighting to sort out now. Then we went straight on to Abingdon School Chapel to look at some coloured glass samples in situ. Now that the Islip screen is finished work on the Abingdon windows will move up a gear.

I'm also in the process of drawing up the new Altar I've designed for another church. A couple of days ago I went to visit 'Deep in the Wood' who will supply the English Oak from which it will be made. It's a very nice project to work on alongside the Abingdon Chapel project.

From 23rd July until 25th September I will be exhibiting paintings and sculptures in Museum Obermunster, Regensburg, Germany in the exhibition 'Insights - British Art Today' - should be fun!

 

Added 6 years ago

June 3rd   2011

An extraordinary day - after five years of planning and work the Islip Glass screen is fitted. I'm very pleased with the effect it has on the church; serving to create a feeling of openess, of space. It will take a while to work out the best way of lighting it still but overall it works as I imagined it would do. The space behind the screen has become kitchen, WC with a beautiful oak staircase leading to a light and airy upper room with glass balcony from which you can look through the screen into the body of the church. The Great West doors (previously unused) will now on occasion be used so that upon entering the tower from the west doors you will pass through the glass screen into the Nave of the church.

The Guardian Angel sculpture for St Edward's School was also fitted in the school chapel and I was pleased with how it sits or rather floats - just away from the wall above the (otherwise unnoticed) foundation stone. The Angel gestures gently both to the Foundation stone and towards the main entrance of the chapel inviting us in. Perhaps this is the seraphim who having previously guarded the Garden of Eden (after The Fall) now invites us back in!

Both Islip Church and the Chapel of St Edward's have weddings tomorrow (Saturday) - I rather like the fact that (though the wedding guests may barely notice the works) the work will straightaway be part of the worshipping fabric of the respective buildings.

 

Added 6 years ago

June 2nd   2011

I spent the last two days in Windsor Castle (not as a prisoner but as a guest) on a conference dealing with the commissioning of new Art for churches. The conference was very interesting - staying in Windsor was fascinating. Much like the Cathedral 'villages' that I've visited/stayed in it seems to have an existence of its own. Being able to visit the Chapel Royal late at night and early in the morning for services was rather special.

It's interesting how things have changed over the years. The last time I visited the castle (to visit a friend who was a priest for the Chapel Royal) I literally just drove my car into the castle - having to stop only briefly to explain who I was visiting. Now there is a complex series of barriers and gates with guards carrying machine guns and at night dogs protecting the entrances. The dogs made it still seem wonderfully medieval!

I'm not sure how Her Majesty manages to sleep in the castle though; it's directly under the flight path -give me Otmoor anyday.

On my way back home I called in Islip church to see how the glass screen fitting was progressing. I'm usually around for the fitting of an artwork (either helping or at the very least getting in the way) so it was a rather strange feeling to walk into a church not quite knowing how it would look. So far so good - though the fitting is not entirely finished it's looking very good. Already one could see that the overall effect of the glass screen would be to 'open' up the church Nave, making the church seem lighter and airy. Hopefully it will be finished by the end of the week.

 

Added 6 years ago

April 28th   2011

A busy couple of days. Yesterday I spent the day in Lancashire, in the Daedalian Glass studio checking on the glass samples for the Islip glass Screen. It's all suddenly coming together now. Today I was in Norwich Cathedral taking down my Sarum Cycle paintings. Whilst I was in Norfolk I went to the Lynford Arboretum in the Thetford Forest to find my Salutation sculpture. This was a larger version of the Salutation sculpture of mine in Newcastle Cathedral. I hadn't seen it since it was installed back in 1999 to celebrate the new millennium. It was commissioned by the Methodist W.E.R.E. trust and it was dedicated to a young boy, Thomas Marshall who died in tragic circumstances. It was like going to see an old friend. The weather has discoloured the face of the stone considerably so that it looks at first as if the sculpure has been there for decades - but like a good old friend it was if we had never been apart. I've put two images of it on the sculpture gallery.

 

Added 6 years ago

Yesterday the village of Islip organised a sponsored bike ride from Westminster Abbey to the village of Islip in Oxfordshire to help raise money for the glass screen that I've designed. It was the most marvellous day. I took part in the ride and thoroughly enjoyed it. The bikes and riders were all blest in front of the Abbey before making their way through central London and out into the country. The day got warmer and warmer until mid afternoon when it was like a summer's day. Events like that bring out the best in village community life. There were so many people involved: the organisers, the riders, the huge team of marshals, the team of women who had prepared and served food at all the food stops and at the village Hall, the sponsors (a local estate agency called Breckon & Breckon), the local MP (Ian Howell), local media people, children (who'd decorated their tiny bikes) and had ridden them a couple of hundred metres and a large number of villagers who had come to support.

Today I was in Norwich Cathedral hanging my Sarum Cycle of Passion paintings in the new Hostry exhibition space. This really is a splendid space just at the entrance to the cathedral - a wonderful combination of ancient stonework with contemporary architecture. My Sarum Cycle will be there until 28th April.

 

Added 6 years ago

April 22nd   Good Friday    2011

Spent last week in Cornwall sketching designs for a series of sculptures based on the Passion of Christ.

Wednesday was in Norwich Cathedral leading a meditation on my Sarum cycle of Passion paintings. the evening before my 'Guardian' sculpture was exhibited in The Queen's College, Oxford for the last in this years Lenten series of music and art meditations. As ever the music was sublime; very moving.

Whilst in Cornwall last week went to the 30th birthday party of Dan Male. He is the most remarkable chap; awaiting a heart and lung transplant but probably one of the most positive and happy people I've ever had the fortune to meet. He has started his own company called 'Joey Pouch' which makes small fashionable bags and covers for medical machinery that some people have to carry around or have attached to them. A couple of days before his party he had to be rushed to London for an emergency heart operation. The morning after his operation he was at his party! - a truly remarkable and inspirational young man.

 

Added 6 years ago

April 3rd   2011

Recently someone asked me..."What do you think Mary did immediately after the Crucifixion?"....he carried on "I think she went and put her arm around Judas' mother". Perhaps this is the true nature of a mother, perhaps of women in general; that of reconciliation. Perhaps it is through mothers/women the healing of the nations can be brought about. Let's face it men have had long enough to try!

 

Added 6 years ago

March 31st   2011

Trying to balance my time between a number of projects: presently working on another window design for Abingdon School Chapel while still adjusting design details for Islip Glass screen. The Islip 2 storey high screen should possibly be installed sometime over Easter. It's a massive project and a huge piece of glass. It's very exciting seeing the full sized glass sandblasted samples that Daedalian Glass are producing at the moment. When the samples are all perfect we'll start on the real thing!

I'm also in the process of designing an Altar for a church. The church is a wonderful medieval church and my assymetric design reflects the slightly twisted layout of the building itself. I have several other stone projects all at different (early) stages as well as the limestone angel that I've almost finished. My head is spinning!

In some ways it would be nice to be able to concentrate fully on one project at a time but it often works out that projects that have been in the pipeline for years suddenly come to fruition all at the same time. Sometimes, though, working quickly (but not rushing) on projects produces the best results rather than overworking them because of the availability of time.

 

Added 6 years ago

March 28th   2011

Yesterday the village of Islip organised a sponsored bike ride from Westminster Abbey to the village of Islip in Oxfordshire to help raise money for the glass screen that I've designed. It was the most marvellous day. I took part in the ride and thoroughly enjoyed it. The bikes and riders were all blest in front of the Abbey before making their way through central London and out into the country. The day got warmer and warmer until mid afternoon when it was like a summer's day. Events like that bring out the best in village community life. There were so many people involved: the organisers, the riders, the huge team of marshals, the team of women who had prepared and served food at all the food stops and at the village Hall, the sponsors (a local estate agency called Breckon & Breckon), the local MP (Ian Howell), local media people, children (who'd decorated their tiny bikes) and had ridden them a couple of hundred metres and a large number of villagers who had come to support.

Today I was in Norwich Cathedral hanging my Sarum Cycle of Passion paintings in the new Hostry exhibition space. This really is a splendid space just at the entrance to the cathedral - a wonderful combination of ancient stonework with contemporary architecture. My Sarum Cycle will be there until 28th April.

 

Added 6 years ago

Feb 15th 2011

Yesterday I worked all day on a new sculpture, an angel. For months now a wonderful piece of Caen stone has stood patiently facing my studio. A bright, largely sunny day combined with a strong sense of where the finished sculpture might go, prompted me to start the lengthy process of uncovering the angel in the stone. It's probably just as well that the sky is grey and dull today as I have to work in the studio finishing off some detail drawings for the Islip church glass screen ready for delivery to the glass company later in the week.

I realised as I carved into the creamy white Caen stone yesterday that it is the process of making art that I relish. Whilst I can see in my minds eye the finished piece long before I have started it is the actual production of it that thrills me. I cherish the time working on it so much that I often find myself slowing down towards the end so that it will not finish. Working on paintings and certainly with glass I find that this is not so marked probably because (especially with the glass projects) they are produced in a series of stages - drawings, paintings, detail drawings and detail glass samples before final production. But with the stone it is an uninterrupted process (even if one has to break from the process occasionally to work on other projects). I suppose with the stone, from start to finish, the process is the same; it becomes a journey that you long to return to when you are called away from it. Sculpting stone is a slow hard journey - very much like climbing a hill. You can often see the top of the hill though it sometimes becomes hazy. You know that you must not rush or you might make a mistake, stumble or fall. Steady controlled progress is what is needed; not rushing ahead but not holding back either. When you reach the top of the hill, the view is glorious but you realise that it was the process of getting there that mattered the most!

 

Added 6 years ago

Feb 2nd   2011

Spent the day yesterday at Daedalian Glass the extraordinary company who produce my glass designs. Based in Lancashire they are always a delight to visit. Their studios are a veritable treasure trove of experimental glass techniques and current projects. They're working on both the huge Islip glass screen for me as well as the Abingdon School chapel windows that I've designed. Davia Walmsley is a brilliant glass artist and manages to translate my painted designs into pure glass. All I have to do is to see the glass coming out of the kiln to decide what does and what does not work. Check out www.daedalian-glass.co.uk to see their work. At the moment I have the full size drawings for Islip church in my studio but they're so big I can't lay them all out. When it's sand-blasted it will be done in 7 massive sections then fitted together in situ. We won't see it as a complete piece until it's installed...scary!! Over the next months I shall be up and down to Lancashire checking on the progress of the two projects.

 

Added 6 years ago

Jan 20th   2011

My thoughts keep returning to a News report from the floods in Australia that I heard yesterday. A young boy,13 year old Jordan Rice, was trapped with his mother and his younger brother on the roof of their car as it was engulfed in the raging floods. He insisted that the rescuers saved his younger brother, Blake, before him. Jordan drowned, along with his mother, before the rescuers could return.

'Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'. Matthew 25: v.40

Oh how we underestimate children. If in my own life I can be half as brave, half as strong, half as selfless as Jordan Rice, I should be very happy indeed.

To those who think that you do not go to Heaven by good acts - try telling that to young Blake Rice who must surely know that his brother sits at the right hand of Christ Himself.

 

Added 6 years ago

Jan 14th   2011

Yesterday visited Norwich Cathedral to look at the new exhibition space (very nice). My Sarum Cycle (Passion of Christ) paintings will be hung there 28th March until 28th April.

This evening off to Southwell Minster, Nottinghamshire, to speak about my painting in the exhibition there (Methodist Collection of Contemporary Christian Art).

 

Added 6 years ago

January 10th  2011

A very busy time for me - I'm working on the final drawing for the two-storey sand-blasted glass screen for Islip Church as well as painting the design for a fused glass window for Abingdon School chapel. Both fabulous commissions to work on. The Islip design has already been approved but a slight change in choice of door/s has meant an adjustment of the original design. It's hoped that it will be sand-blasted and installed by Easter.

My Sarum Cycle of paintings (based on Christ's Passion) will be exhibited this Lent in Norwich Cathedral. At the moment there is an exhibition of the extraordinary Methodist Collection of Christian Art in Southwell Minster in Nottinghamshire. I'm going up there Friday evening to talk about my painting in the collection, 'The Rest on the Flight to Egypt'.

 

Added 6 years ago

Dec 18th   2010

Where I live on Otmoor it is incredibly quiet with no traffic noise and rarely any other sound other than the occasional dog bark, a pheasant call, my cocks crowing, the sheep in the field behind or the wild birds. Upon waking this morning I was aware that the silence was a different sort of silence; a dead soft silence that you only get with snow. It's been snowing ever since. I photographed a sculpture in my garden (see sculpture gallery) of The Holy Family. This had originally been produced as a commission for Parham Church in Suffolk but never found its home there. The commission was cancelled. It amused me that The Holy Family found no room in the Inn (Parham Church) and so they have resided (quite happily) in my garden ever since.

 

Added 6 years ago

Dec 3rd   2010

Snow covered landscape outside my studio window. Otmoor is frozen. I've started a painting of The Holy Family on the flight to Egypt in a snowy landscape. It seems every year, at about this time, I'm drawn to work on this theme. Living on Otmoor, an area of open countryside, I'm very aware of the weather and the sky and find myself responding to it in my work - not only longing to be outside carving when it is sunny but actually reflecting the weather and season in the actual work.

A couple of nights ago I was considering the Annunciation of the Archangel Gabriel to the virgin Mary. I've often felt it odd that St Luke suggests that Mary was 'troubled' at his words - rather than being troubled at his appearance. Is it that God makes his angels to appear in a way that is acceptable - that we can cope with? Perhaps they appear sometimes in human guise? Perhaps also it was that Mary was so aware of the reality of God that she does not question the existence of the angel. She only questions her part in the event...yet she answers unswervingly, 'May it be to me as you have said.' Luke 1 v.38 Gentle modest words and yet upon this response rests the whole weight of our salvation. The choice Mary makes sets the whole Nativity of Christ, the ministry of Christ, his crucifixion and resurrection...in action.

 

Added 7 years ago

Nov 11th   2010

It’s that time of year when I start thinking about what I might produce for next year’s series of Lenten meditations held in The Queen’s College, Oxford. The music looks like it will be an 18thc setting of the Passion by Heinrich Graun, alongside works by Biber, Whyte, Schmeltzer, Lassus and Tallis. There will be six weekly concert/meditations accompanied by a contemporary work of art.

I enjoy producing a work of art especially for this series (even though I might spend a month or more carving a work that is only on show for an hour). It is for me a time to contemplate the Passion.

A number of ideas have reoccurred to me - a deposition of Christ; a dead Christ or perhaps ‘Christ on a Cold Stone’ - all ideas that I have already spent time designing over and over. The last idea keeps coming back - Christ on a Cold Stone. I’d never heard of this theme until I went to the National Gallery’s ‘Seeing Salvation’ exhibition back in 2000. In the middle of a crowded room, at first completely unnoticed by me, and certainly by most people, sat a carved medieval painted stone sculpture of Christ sat on a stone. It was if he had stopped for a moments rest on the Road to Calvary. I remember turning around in that crowded room and being suddenly confronted by this figure of Christ; completely unexpected; not on the wall as an exhibit but right in the middle of us all. It stopped me dead in my tracks as I looked directly into the eyes of Christ. How had I not noticed him?

Only today I came across something that Gabriele Finaldi, the curator of that exhibition, had written directly after the exhibition.

‘One visitor wrote memorably that she had experienced an immediate change in attitude after seeing the exhibition. As she made her way to the Gallery, she had seen a homeless man begging on the Strand and had not paid much heed. In the exhibition she had been particularly struck by the Christ on the Cold Stone, a sixteenth-century Netherlandish sculpture showing Christ seated on a rock awaiting crucifixion, completely naked and vulnerable. On leaving the Gallery she came across the same man in the Strand and somehow the image of the sculpture came to her mind and she found that her reaction towards him had been quite transformed.’

 

Added 7 years ago

November 4th  2010

I'm presently working on the designs for two more coloured fused glass windows for Abingdon (Boys) School chapel. These two windows are based on the Lent term and Summer term respectively (the Michaelmas term is already designed and underway). This really is the most extraordinary commission - a complete set of windows for the chapel, alternating ful coloured fused windows with sand-blasted monochromatic (well almost) windows. The idea is that the complete cycle will both follow the church year as well as the school year, celebrating school life.

It all seems rather self - indulgent because it's such a pleasure to work on. Occasionally there is the worry that you might have been able to include something else in the design or that you should have spent more time on a particular area or a different colour might have worked better. The realisation that the finished work will probably be there for hundreds of years can intimidate more than reassure you as the artist. One has to put that out of one's mind and try to keep working freely.

 

Added 7 years ago

November 2nd   All Souls   2010

I love this period of Hallowtide - this time of remembrance; of All Saints and All Souls. I don't understand why so many christians have a problem with Halloween. I sometimes that think contemporary society and the church in general has lost touch with death. The medieval church seemed to understand that it is necessary (and indeed healthy) to celebrate the change from lightness to darkness and to acknowledge death. Surely it can only be healthy to poke your tongue out at death and your own mortality - what greater celebration of life can there be!

I've also never understood why some christians don't like to pray for the dead. Afterall, surely they are as much part of the body of Christ as we are. I'm absolutely sure that they pray for us whether we choose to pray for them or not.

 

Added 7 years ago

October 13th 2010

Finally the Aumbry for St Mary's Church, Iffley, Oxford is installed (see Sculpture Gallery).

A pair of pale limestone angels stand either side of a lime-washed English Oak door. These might be the two angels referred to in St Luke's Gospel (Luke 24v.4-7). However, rather than showing us the empty tomb, here they direct us with their gaze and their gestures to, 'Behold The Lamb of God'. A pierced section in the angels wings allows the light (from an electric bulb) to shine through.

This commission was for me a huge priviliege to undertake. Iffley church is a beautiful romanesque church; a veritable celebration of stone carving. Apart from the super John Piper Nativity window there has been little contemporary addition and as far as I can make out no sculpture since the 12th century!

I'm indebted to Peter Street (carpenter) who made the beautiful oak door and to Roger Wagner who appeared (like an angel) just when another pair of hands was necessary to help fit the carving. There can't be many churches that would be happy for the artist and carpenter to set up a workbench in the sanctuary for chiselling stone and sawing wood. As Peter Street remarked , 'Jesus, being a carpenter, would have approved!'

 

Added 7 years ago

Sept 29th   Michaelmas   2010

It seems rather fitting that I should spend the feast day of St Michael and All Angels working on my limestone angels for Iffley church.

 

Added 7 years ago

Sept 26th 2010

Last night I went to the dedication of the new window by Thomas Denny for Durham Cathedral. It really is a most extraordinary window and really stunning. Best seen mid-afternoon, the light streams through the bright central section of the window creating the most dazzling effects.

It was amazing to see the completed installed window having only seen sections of it some months ago when I visited Tom working on it in his studio. It is a great success and certainly seemed to be extraordinarily well received.

It was very sad indeed that Tom's friend Michael who had been doing the leading and helping with the installation should so tragically die as they worked to install the window. I suppose that he died doing what he loved. The window will be a lasting memorial not only to Robert Ramsey, in whose memory it was commissioned, but also to Michael Lassen.

 

Added 7 years ago

Sept 20th 2010

I spent the last week down in Cornwall working on detailed drawings for the Islip glass screen. I'm producing white crayon on black paper drawings as guides for the sand-blasting. Good fun to do but very time consuming! Today, I was carving again - on the Iffley project - Tervoux stone; very beautiful to carve.

 

Added 7 years ago

Sept 10th 2010

It seems that I'm now officially a 'Superbug'! The new Viral Superbug 'ndm1'shares my initials. Perhaps I'll spend the rest of the afternoon designing an appropriate outfit!

 

Added 7 years ago

Sept 7th 2010

Working flat out now on the new chapel window for Abingdon School; new glass screen (two storey high) for Islip Church and the sculpted Aumbry for Iffley Church. It's an extraordinary coincidence that they're all Oxfordshire based projects. It's nice to be back in the UK again. I've been in Switzerland and France over the last two months, working on project drawings as well as cycling l'etape du tour in the Pyrenees on 18th July (along with another 10,000 cyclists). It's not really ideal working on three huge projects at the same time but when the glass drawings go to Daedalian (the glass studio) I'll feel just slightly less pressured.

 

Added 7 years ago

June 8th 2010

I'm taking part in an exhibition at 'Wallspace' All Hallows on the Wall, London from 23 June until 16th July. Entitled 'THE COLLECTION' , the exhibition is a selection of works from the extraordinary Methodist collection of modern and contemporary Art. This will be the first opportunity to see works newly acquired for the Methodist collection. It includes work by Craigie Aitchison, Edward Burra, Elizabeth Frink, Mark Cazalet, Eric Gill, Ghislaine Howard, Peter Howson, Nicholas Mynheer, Roger Wagner, Georges Roualt, FN Souza, Graham Sutherland, Norman Adams and David Jones among others. Details about the exhibition are in my EXHIBITION section. I plan to be there on Thursday 1st July to talk briefly about having a piece of work in the collection.

 

Added 7 years ago

I love this time of year. It always seems to be sunny on St George's Day. So many of the trees are in blossom now. The lawn is speckled with white and pink blossom petals. It looks like confetti or sweets perhaps; certainly my poultry love to eat them. I imagine the petals are delicate and perfumed to the taste.

There is a sense of urgency in Nature now that Winter is behind us.

There's always something very special, magical almost, working outside carving and hearing the cuckoo in the wood across the field. It's wonderful feeling part of the endless cycle of the changing seasons and I find it strangely reassuring knowing that it will carry on long after I am no more.

It seems quite apt that I am working on a sculpture of The Good Shepherd whilst in the field next to me the Ewes tend their lambs.

 

Added 7 years ago

May 21st 2010

I’m working on the most extraordinary projects at the moment. Apart from some very nice private commissions I’m also working on three larger commissions.

The first is a carved Aumbry for Iffley Church in Oxford. This is a Romanesque church complete with the most wonderful carvings inside and out (alongside probably my favourite John Piper ‘Nativity’ window). This church really is a celebration of carving and to put in contemporary carving is a great privilege.

The second project I’m working on is to produce a new altar for The Church of the Resurrection, Mirfield Priory in Yorkshire. The architects Harris McMillan of Exeter have come up with a wonderful design for a new monastery and a complete re-ordering of the church. The artists Mark Cazalet, Stephen Cox and Ben Galloway are also producing works of art for the church. My altar will be a single block of limestone which I shall carve all round with scenes of the Resurrection and will be sited in the centre of the sanctuary at the east end of the church.

The third project is a scheme of windows for Abingdon Boy School. The Trinity (east) Window was installed back in 2003(?) and now the idea is to replace all the chapel windows with a cycle of windows that celebrate the life of the school and the church year. They are to alternate between fully coloured fused glass panels (like the Trinity window) and sand-blasted, almost monochrome panels. This really is an extraordinary commission though likely to run over several years depending on funding. A once in a lifetime commission!

 

Added 7 years ago

May 18th 2010

Juggling all the various commissions at the moment. It's going to be like this for a little while yet I think! In some ways I think that it's the busiest I've ever been. I'm also working on a private sculpture commission so I'm trying very hard to keep that progressing as well. Strange how the call to work on that seems to be directly related to how sunny it is outside!

 

Added 7 years ago

May 13th 2010

I've just put The Good Shepherd sculpture onto the Sculpture Gallery. I'm now starting to work on several projects simultaneously : initial designs for the first of the new Abingdon Chapel windows (coloured fused glass) and the design for a two storey sand-blasted glass screen for Islip Church.

 

Added 7 years ago

May 10th 2010

Spent an absolutely wonderful day in Dorset visiting sites connected with the writer T F Powys with my artist friends Roger Wagner, Richard Kenton Webb, Mark Cazalet and Tom Denny. Tom is busy working on a new window for Durham Cathedral. It is simply stunning! All being well it will be fitted later this year.

T F Powys is new to me - I've only read 'Mr Weston's Good Wine' but on the basis of that I want to read more. T F Powys achieves what I try to in my work; he shows the 'ordinary' to be extraordinary.

 

Added 7 years ago

May 5th 2010

I'm still working away on The Shepherd sculpture. It's a piece of Caen stone - such beautiful stone; clean and pale and very fine. Often when I look at a freshly cut block it seems sacrilege to consider cutting into it!

 

Added 7 years ago

May 4th  Easter Day  2010

For the painting 'The Empty Tomb' from the Sarum Cycle this accompanying text:

Just after sunrise, the women return to the tomb in order to anoint the body of Christ. The huge tomb stone has been rolled away and the body of Christ has gone. Two angels 'in cloths that gleamed like lightning'' sitting in the tomb say to them, ' Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here! He has risen!''

The intense light from the angels is the light source of the painting. It even lights up the sky itself but it is all the reflected glory of God.

'Praise, O servants of the Lord,

praise the name of the Lord.

let the name of the Lord be praised,

both now and for evermore.

From the rising of the sun to the place

where it sets,

the name of the Lord is to be praised.' Psalm 113 v.1-3

 

Added 7 years ago

April 3rd   Holy Saturday  2010

For the painting, 'The Stillness' from The Sarum cycle I wrote this accompanying text:

An empty landscape with a wintry sky. Jesus sleeps in the earth. All in still. An old tree at first appearing dead can be seen to sprout a new green leaf; the promise of new life, of resurrection.

For me the day between Good Friday and Easter day is a strange unearthly day, hardly a day at all, a sort of noon, neither morning or afternoon. It seems to be a fulcrum on which balances hope or despair; a strange state of limbo with the balance wavering between life and death before it gently tips over into Easter. Once again we breathe a sigh of relief. the world is born anew.

'We wait in hope for the Lord;

he is our help and our shield.

In him our hearts rejoice,

for we trust in his holy name.

May your unfailing love rest upon us, O

Lord,

even as we put our hope in you.' Psalm 33 v.20-22

 

Added 7 years ago

April 2nd    Good Friday 2010

For the painting'The Road to Calvary' from the Sarum Cycle I wrote this accompanying text:

Jerusalem, having sucked Jesus in, now disgorges him. A man, still holding a palm frond from the day Jesus entered Jerusalem, carries Jesus' colt over his shoulder like a toy.

Men with muscular forearms carry out the tools necessary for crucifixion; a ladder, a hammer and nails. Simon of Cyrene is seen next to Jesus, about to help Jesus carry the crossbar.

As in 'The Entry into Jerusalem' we almost miss Jesus as our eyes are drawn to the ferocity of the central figure. For many of these men this is just another crucifixion, a daily occurence, just another sentence being carried out.

'But when I stumbled, they gathered in

glee;

attackers gathered against me when I

was unaware.

They slandered me without ceasing.

Like the ungodly they mailciously

mocked;

they gnashed their teeth at me.' Psalm 35 v.15-16

 

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April 1st    Maundy Thursday

For the painting of The Last Supper (in my Sarum Cycle gallery) I wrote this accompanying text:

Jesus and his disciples sit around a table in an upper room, encircled by a vine and lit by oil lamps. The disciples talk in groups, unaware of what the night will bring.

Those nearest to Jesus watch as he breaks the loaf of bread. A simple leaden coloured chalice holds red wine.

The night is clear and starry, the palm trees motionless in the warm night air.

' Let them give thanks to the Lord for his

unfailing love

and his wonderful deeds for men,

for he satisfies the thirsty

and fills the hungry with good

things.' Psalm 107 v. 8-9

 

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March 31st 2010

Last night saw the final Queen's College Lenten meditation evening of Art and Music. The final section of Simon Whalley's extraordinary 'Christus' was performed. It is an incredibly powerful piece. In no sense are you merely a 'listener'; you become part of the music. It is the singers, the musicians and us the 'audience' who betray Christ, us who cry 'Crucify Him', us who nail him to the cross but it is to us that he bowes his head from the cross.

Roger Wagner's 'Flowering Tree (painting) was exhibited on one side of the chapel and my 'Corpus of Christ' on the other. Roger's small oil study is very beautiful indeed, a sort of Flowering Rood; brightly coloured and exquisite.

I wrapped the head of my sculpture of Christ with brambles cut from my garden. It seemed somehow very symbollic standing on a chair at the front of the chapel binding the viscious thorns around his head. This was the culmination of over a months carving, hoisted up high onto its plinth in front of the Sanhedrin (as they sat waiting for the concert) my hands spotted with specks of blood from fitting the crown of thorns.

 

Added 7 years ago
Palm Sunday 2010

This is the text that I wrote to accompany the painting,'The Entry into Jerusalem', the first picture on my Sarum Cycle gallery. It was painted and written for this very day:

In a maelstrom of swirling humanity Jerusalem sucks in another prophet. The buildings, the people and the very landscape are all involved in the event; together they shout, 'Hosanna in the Highest, Blessed is he that comes in the name of the Lord'.

Amongst the spinning colours we have to look hard to see the supposed reason for their celebration; the small insigificant barely noticed figure of Jesus sitting on a humble colt.

The palm waving crowd do not look at Jesus for he is merely another prophet; the reason for celebration is no longer as important as the celebration itself. Only Zacchaeus looks down from the tree with interest. Zacchaeus is often found in depictions of The Entry into Jerusalem even though in the gospels he appears elsewhere. What matters is not when he climbed the tree to see Jesus; only that he did!

'Lift up your heads, O you gates;

lift them up, you ancient doors,

that the King of Glory may come in.' Psalm 24 v.9

 

Added 7 years ago

March 19th 2010

I've always loved that Hymn, 'Jesus Christ the Apple Tree'. It was only recently that I discovered that it's actually only 19thc or early 20thc; I'd always assumed that it was medieval. I've painted it a couple of times and designed a glass version (never produced) and I was thinking about that theme when I came across a wonderful poem by Christina Rossetti entitled 'As the Apple Tree among the trees of the wood'. It made me think of Christ in the wilderness. -

As one red rose in a garden where all other

roses are white

Blossoms alone in its glory, crowned all alone

In a solitude of own sweetness and fragrance of

own delight,

With loveliness not another's and thorns its own;

As one ruddy sun amid million orbs comely and

colourless,

Among all others, above all others is known;

As it were alone in the garden, alone in the

heavenly place,

Chief and centre of all, in fellowship yet alone.

 

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March 17th 2010

Last night in The Queen's College Chapel, Oxford I listened to the second part of Simon Whalley's extraordinary 'Christus'. It is one of those rare works where the words and music are one; where Holy Scripture is not seperate from music but the same thing. I always think Finzi's setting of 'Dies Natalis' and the 'Salutation' are like that; you cannot imagine the words without the music. Last nights section started with the Last Supper and the agonisingly painful questioning by the disciples of who will betray Christ and ran through to the equally painful denial by Peter (and his betrayal of Jesus). Perhaps Simon Whalley has a particular interest in Betrayal; I remember a most astonishing operetta(?) that he wrote years ago for the Christ Church Cathedral School (Oxford) based on the betrayal of King Arthur. I feel privileged to be hearing this work week by week for its first time. The week after next, when Roger Wagner and I exhibit our work, the work culminates in The Crucifixion. I look forward to it with huge excitement but also absolute dread.

Jane Dowling exhibited her wonderfully intimate 'Betrayal of Christ' painting alongside the music last night. She is a towering artist. Viewing her painting (nearly always in tempera) is like looking into a crystal clear rock pool, with layers and layers of overlapping colours that seem to move before your eyes.

 

Added 7 years ago

March 15th 2010

Went to Roger Wagner's exhibition last night in the Ashmoleum museum. It was really for the formal receiving in of his 'Mennorah' painting into the museum collection (although it will after the next fortnight) return to its usual hanging place in St Gile's Church, Oxford. A splendid exhibition that really is worth seeing . His work has a mystical quality a bit like Samuel Palmer's in some ways but as Richard Harries said in his brief but excellent speech, Roger has the ability to create images that remain with you. It was also great to catch up with many artist friends and colleagues.

 

Added 7 years ago

March 12th 2010

Finally finished both sculptures I've been working on - The 'Corpus of Christ' (which will be exhibited on Tuesday 30th March at The Queen's College chapel, Oxford) and 'Simon and Jesus' which will be exhibited at the Stillpoint Stations of the Cross exhibition (26th March onwards). The details of these two events are listed in the Exhibition section.

I've put these two newest sculptures on my Sculpture page (top right two thumbnails). It's a great relief to get them finished even though I thoroughly enjoyed carving them. The last 4 or 5 weeks have certainly been cold working outside!

Carving this sculpture of Simon of Cyrene helping Christ carry the cross has refired in my mind the idea of producing a series of sculptures based on The Passion of Christ (a little like my Sarum Cycle of paintings - which incidentally look like they'll be going to Norwich Cathedral for Lent and Easter 2011). It's a huge committment, timewise, though which I will have to fit in between the commissioned projects but it's an exciting idea.

 

Added 7 years ago

Mar 10th 2010

Last night was the first of The Queen's College Lenten meditation evenings of Art and Music. The artists Alison Lilley Berrett and Tim Steward provided very strong works that looked stunning in the chapel. The composer Simon Whalley conducted the first performance of his 'Christus-the Passion according to St. Mark'. It was breathtaking; quite extraordinary. We were transported to The Mount of Olives...you could have cut the atmosphere with a knife....utterly spellbinding. Words, Art and Music intertwined with the Love of God.

 

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March 4th 2010

Spent the day outside working on the sculpture 'Simon of Cyrene helps Jesus carry the Cross' (I think I'll call it Simon & Jesus). I've never really spent so much time with Simon of Cyrene before. We are told in the gospels that Simon was 'forced' to carry Jesus' cross. Jesus, on the other hand, willingly accepted the cross. St. Mark tells us that Simon was the father of Alexander and Rufus (in a way that suggests that they were known to his readers - perhaps early christians?). What interests me though is the fact that Simon was a father. Could it have been that Simon's own sons were the same age as Jesus? What dark thoughts must have been going through his head as he shared the burden of the cross?

By carrying Jesus' cross Simon carries Christ himself, recalling the words, ' What you did for the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me'.

In my sculpture the two figures and the crossbar become one; they become the cross itself, the very symbol of redemption.

 

Added 7 years ago

March 3rd 2010

I've just loaded the new 'Corpus of Christ' sculpture onto my Sculpture gallery. I'm not sure it's entirely finished but it's quite nice to give things a breathing space. After a few days or so you generally know if you have any more to do to it.

As I photographed it in the late afternoon sunshine a cloud of gnats swarmed directly over Chist's head in a perfect circle. It was very strange; nature responding to the image of its creator and making a perfect halo!

This time of year, what I really look forward to is the change in the air that marks the coming of Spring. Every year there is a particular moment when I suddenly feel the change. It's difficult to explain what it is exactly as it's not gradual but instantaneous and very definate and brings with it ecstatic joy. It hasn't happened yet although the sudden change from bitter cold to more mld temperatures and sun have given the appearance of the arrival of Spring. Even though a crocus has blossomed in my garden and the daffodils are on their way through I haven't felt 'the change' yet. I suppose working outside so much of the time makes one very sensitive to any change in light and possibly pressure change.

The next thing I look forward to every year is the call of the Cuckoo. When I first hear that (usually) distant call my heart leaps with unlimited joy. The call of the cuckoo symbolises the start of summer and the promise of warmth and light. It is for me a symbol of Hope.

 

Added 7 years ago

Feb 23rd 2010

Working flat out at the moment on my 'Corpus of Christ' for the Queen's College series of Lenten meditations that start on the 9th March and run on consecutive Tuesdays until the 30th March (the evening Roger Wagner and I exhibit our pieces).

I'm also really looking forward to working on a sculpture of Simon of Cyrene helping Christ for another exhibition in Oxford. This looks like it will be a very exciting exhibition - 14 Oxfordshire artists will each produce one Station of the Cross (or their particular response to that Station). This will be the 2nd StillPoint Stations of The Cross exhibition to be held at The Jam Factory, Hollybush row, Oxford. It will run from March 26th until April 20th. find more details at: www.thestillpoint.org.uk

 

Added 7 years ago

Feb 20th 2010

I've just loaded a new painting onto the Painting gallery. It's the second in The Grail series. Here we see Abraham entertaining The Angels. But rather than serving them a meal of milk, meat and bread (Genesis 18) Abraham serves them bread and wine - a eucharistic meal.

The composition of the painting is similar to the glass version I designed for The Trinity window, Abingdon School. I often re-use a particular composition if I like it. Sometimes having sketched or painted it I realise that it would work equally well in stone. All my sketched ideas for paintings, glass or sculpture are done in a numbered series of sketch books. Often when I'm working on a design I recall a group of figures or perhaps a section of landscape that I'd drawn (perhaps years earlier) that seems finally to have found a use.

I'm sure that this particular design relates to Rublev's Old Testament Trinity icon; certainly it has a similar composition. I like the idea that the Angels are physically there with Abraham yet at the same time they seem distant, otherworldly.

Added 7 years ago

Feb 12th 2010

This is a busy time for me at the moment. I'm presently trying to design a hanging sculpture (for a church); in the process of drawing up a sculpture design for another; waiting to hear back about a large window design; working on two small paintings (in odd moments) as well as carving a corpus of Christ (for the Queen's College exhibition in Lent -see notice in Exhibition section). When that sculpture's finished I have to produce another (of Simon of Cyrene helping Christ carry the cross) for an exhibition based on the Stations of The Cross. Alongside these projects I'm waiting on a number of other projects (both here in UK and for a new church in the Gulf State of Qatar).

Yesterday I spent most of the day working outside on the stone figure of Christ. It was a largely bright day but only about 3 degrees with a biting wind. Sometimes producing art is really hard. Stone sculpture is often physically demanding but some days working out in the open it is brutal. There seemed something bizarely appropriate about the discomfort of the situation; hammer and chisel in hand working on the twisted crucified body whilst the cutting NE wind blasted the face. The strange thing is that whenever I carve a sculpture of the crucified body of Christ it is beauty that seems to come out of it. Perhaps it is the same beauty that I see when I look at some early medieval carvings of the crucifixion. There is no denial of pain, far from it, but there is often a deep beauty in the suffering - a suffering that I can often feel through my chisel as the hand follows the shape of the face or carves the curves of the ribcage. The carving of the eyes and the wounds always seems deeply intimate; at one time hammering the very chisel through Christ's hand into the cross while at the same time caressing the wounds with the tender doubt of St Thomas.

 

Added 7 years ago

Feb 6th 2010

I've just started carving a block of English Limestone into a Corpus of Christ. This will be for the Queen's College Lenten series of music and art meditations in Oxford. The brilliant composer Simon Whalley is producing a piece based on The Passion of Christ and this Corpus will accompany one of the movements.

The way I work generally is more reductive than building up. We always think of creativity as being a sort of building up, of adding, but for me it is much more a case of cutting away - of reduction. I like the idea of cutting directly into stone. There is no going back, no putting back. A surgeon friend once said to me, 'What we do is the same - think twice and cut once'
Even when I paint I think of the process as reductive. I start with pencil designs reducing superfluous detail, simplifying and stylising until I feel ready to paint The whole process is one of paring down - of trying to see what really matters; a skill I haven't managed to apply to the rest of my life!

 

Added 7 years ago

February 1st 2010

I'm often asked how I get my ideas for a work and how I start a painting or sculpture. Occasionally I will see the finished work in my head then all I have to do is paint it or cut away the stone to release it. Unfortunately it doesn't work that way very often. Usually I have an idea for a theme (or one is suggested in a commission) and I sit for hours or days with pencil in hand doodling away until the idea develops. Sometimes it's only when a work is finished that I start to see what it represents. The painting entitled Flight to Egypt (in the Painting section) that shows a circle of angels floating above the Holy Family (in the lower left of the painting) is a case in point. It started with the idea of a family travelling through a wintry landscape with the angelic host above. I had the idea of the angels moving along with the family protecting them (though unnoticed by the family). Originally I had orange yellow light reflected on the snow from the angels but then I decided that this tied the two worlds together in too much of an earthly way so painted the bright highlights out. It was only after I had finished the picture that I noticed the juxtaposition of the trees; the (apparently) dead barren trees in the blue landscape and the vibrant Tree of Life (or Knowledge) amongst the angels above. I had produced the image with no particular idea of what the elements represented or indeed how they related to each other yet when the image was finished the relationship between the protected Garden of Eden (after 'the fall') and the start of Christ's life and eventual making good 'the fall' seemed obvious.

 

Added 7 years ago

Jan 25th 2010

I was thinking about my earlier blog entry about the different ways of 'seeing' things and it occured to me that so much of how I perceive the world has been informed by my childhood. Unlike many artists it seems that I had an unfashionably happy childhood. I recall the day, as a young boy, probably aged about ten, walking down the footpath next to the river Thames in Oxford when I realised that by looking through the glimmering reflections on the water's surface I could see the fish beneath - a sudden breaking through of an artificial barrier. It became a passion of mine to instruct adults on how to be able to see past the silver reflections and to see the world which they served to hide. I often think that life as a whole is like a highly reflective surface in which we see ourselves and everything around all too clearly and God, often, not so clearly.

St. Luke says, 'Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then shall we see face to face.' Perhaps it is then, that as an artist, I still endeavour to see past those reflections.

 

Added 7 years ago

Jan 18th 2010

A little Robin sits outside my studio window and cocks his head. Often when I see a Robin my mind goes back to my childhood and the Nursery rhyme 'Who killed Cock Robin'. The thought of it still sends shivers down my spine; as a child this nursery rhyme haunted me. Somehow the death of Cock Robin seemed to matter. Does he represent William Rufus? Are there connections with the ancient tradition of hunting and killing a wren then charging a penny to 'see the dead king'? He seemed to me a Christ-like figure or perhaps as a child both Christ and Cock Robin were of equal significance. Whatever, his death mattered to me as it clearly also did to the Fly, the Fish, the Beetle, the Owl, the Rook, the Lark, the Dove, the Wrens, the Thrush and the Bull!

 

Added 7 years ago

Jan 15th 2010

I've just added an image of The Green Man in winter to the Sculpture gallery. This was a block of English Limestone set in the corner of my studio wall. One day, when I should have working on something else, I decided to carve this Foliate head directly into the stone.

The figure of The Green Man has always fascinated me. As a small child (before the days of double glazing) I saw faces peering at me through the foliate patterns on frosted windows. As a schoolboy The Green Knight captivated me in Gawain and The Green Knight. Sometimes people express surprise (and even disapproval) when they see me carving a Green Man as if somehow The Green Man represents something sinister. For me it is very clear; the Green Man represents God in Nature, irrepressible life and Man's relationship with the Earth, with the environment. Afterall we are not seperate from the world but rather part of it. We are made of the same building blocks that the rest of Nature is. In the Old Testament the prophet Isaiah says:

'Look unto the rock whence ye are hewn,

and to the hole of the pit whence

ye are digged.'

The Green Man is the personification of the changing seasons, dying in Winter to be reborn in the Spring. He stands for the ebb and flow of life, death and resurrection.

Many argue that his appearance in churches and cathedrals is the result of the church's attempt to make safe those elements of paganism that it failed to stamp out. I think it more likely that it was the combination of the Green Man being a recognised motif of rebirth and the fact that the average medieval wood or stone carver might well have had more understanding of their relationship to Nature than the educated clergy did!

 

Added 7 years ago

January 13th 2010

Snow continues to gently fall. I love the silence that you get with heavy snow. The hawthorn hedge that borders my studio appears so different with its white covering . The thick twisted stems of old growth are highlighted by the layer of snow emphasising the way the hedge was laid. It's wonderful how a change of light or a dusting of snow re-presents things so that you see them with fresh eyes; often seeing the beauty that was always there but taken for granted.

I remember some years ago, looking at this hedge whilst listening to Jonathan Harvey's 'Madonna of the Spring' (I think it's called) and seeing clearly in the depths of the branches the Virgin herself holding the Christ child. I'm sure that on the odd occasion when I have seen such things it is me projecting the idea. I recall as a teenager sitting in the back of my father's car as we drove past the old Pressed Steel Fisher factory with its two huge brick chimneys and telling my friends about the time I had seen a Spitfire (aeroplane) flying between the chimneys. I could see the plane as if it had been yesterday. My father informed me afterwards that it had not been me that had seen it but him! Clearly his telling me the story at some point had been sufficient to burn the image into my mind. From that moment on I realised that there were many ways of 'seeing' things.

 

Added 7 years ago

January 12th 2010

I've just returned from the French Alps to find Oxfordshire under thick snow. A pile of (what I had previously considered Pale) English limestone looks positively ochre under its blanket of white snow. The sky is almost the same colour as the landscape, with perhaps just the merest touch of Payne's grey to seperate it.

I've started to work again on a number of church commissions that I started last year: a design for a large fused glass window; a stone sculpted Aumbry for a most wonderful Romanesque church and a number of other projects. Generally the church commissions take about two years from the initial sketches until installation. This is due to the various committees that have to consider them: PCC's, DAC's, Church Building Council, Victorian Society, English Heritage etc. It all might seem a little long winded but it does (generally) mean that when a work is eventually installed everyone (and their dog) has been duly consulted. Overall I think that the process works; afterall work installed in a church or cathedral setting is usually going to be there a long time! What also keeps my head up is that I truly believe that no work is ever wasted. Time spent on a particular project that eventually fails to proceed through lack of funding or committee decisions/politics has usually produced designs that can be re-used or re-developed for something else. Through this design process one's own faith is developed as well; realisations and perhaps insight seem to come to me more through the marks of my own pencil than any other means.

 

Added 7 years ago

December 30th 2009

I've just started work on a series of small oil on paper paintings based on the theme of The Chalice. The first one completed is 'The Cup of Suffering' (which I've just added to The Painting Gallery). The theme of the cup of suffering is one that I find myself returning to time and again. Often I paint Jesus with his hands in a gesture that can be read either as acceptance of the cup or indeed reticence - for his human nature recoils from what the chalice will bring. In this new work his hands are placed in such a way that he seems to contemplate the cup and offers it to us too. His disciples are behind him in amongst the trees. Jesus feels utterly alone - only Nature responds to his presence; the trees, lit up by the radiance of the chalice, enfold him protectively and the night sky opens revealing the stars. The way to Heaven is made clear for him.

 

Added 7 years ago

December 29th 2009

I love this time between Christmas and the New Year; it is a sort of limbo, a time of stillness and waiting for the New Year to start and Epiphany. For some this is not the case as they've already had to return to work but for many of us the old Twelve Days of Christmas seem to be turning back into the holiday that they were in the distant past.

I like the poetry of Christina Rossetti very much. The last stanza of her Epiphany came to mind this morning -

Myrrh, frankincense, and gold:

And lo! from wintry fold

Good-will doth bring

A Lamb, the innocent likeness of this King

Whom stars and seraphs sing:

And lo! the bird of love, a Dove

Flutters and coos above:

And Dove and Lamb and Babe agree in love:-

Come all mankind, come all creation hither,

Come, worship Christ together.

 

Added 7 years ago

Christmas Day  2009

 

Spinks and ouzles sing sublimely,

'We too have a Saviour born,'

Whiter blossoms burst untimely

On the blest Mosaic thorn. from The Nativity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by Christopher Smart

 

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December 16th 2009 

 

It's very cold in Oxfordshire. The sky is Payne's grey in colour and through the sound of fine sleet against my studio windows I just heard a Blackbird singing. I immediately thought of that wonderful poem by Thomas Hardy The Darkling Thrush. I read somewhere that Hardy meant this to be a metaphor for the close of the 19th century and the Thrush (thought by many to represent the aged Hardy himself) heralds the century to come. Hardy of course is entitled to his own opinion but the beauty of Art, whether literature or painting or music, is that the reader, viewer, listener responds in their own way. Just because an artist produced something doesn't mean they know everything about it. The viewer's response is often more profound than the artist's (as I've so often found with my own work).

For me the Thrush, despite his age and the weather, sings to glorify God. The hope that is mentioned in the last stanza is the hope of new life to come in the changing seasons and the hope of resurrection.

The Darkling Thrush

by Thomas Hardy

I leant upon a coppice gate

When Frost was spectre-gray,

And Winter’s dregs made desolate

The weakening eye of day.

The tangled bine-stems scored the sky

Like strings of broken lyres,

And all mankind that haunted nigh

Had sought their household fires.

The land’s sharp features seemed to be

The Century’s corpse outleant,

His crypt the cloudy canopy,

The wind his death-lament.

The ancient pulse of germ and birth

Was shrunken hard and dry,

And every spirit upon earth

Seemed fervourless as I.

At once a voice arose among

The bleak twigs overhead

In a full-hearted evensong

Of joy illimited ;

An aged thrush, frail, gaunt, and small,

In blast-beruffled plume,

Had chosen thus to fling his soul

Upon the growing gloom.

So little cause for carolings

Of such ecstatic sound

Was written on terrestrial things

Afar or nigh around,

That I could think there trembled through

His happy good-night air

Some blessed Hope, whereof he knew

And I was unaware.

 
Added 7 years ago

December 11th 2009

It's worth having a Blog just to be able to advertise the poetry of Christopher Smart (1722-1771). If you don't know his work check it out. I discovered his work 10or 15 years ago and I feel called back to it constantly. I think the last verse of his The Nativity of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ shows his genius -

'God all-bounteous, all-creative,

Whom no ills from good dissuade,

Is incarnate, and a native

Of the very world he made.''

Sublime!!

 

Added 7 years ago

December 9th 2009

Finally I have a new website. Thanks very much to Creative Edge for designing and building it. I hope you enjoy it. Any feedback or comments most welcome.