Cathedrals and Church buildings have always spoken of God. Music, colour, light, architecture, words, symbols and images, silverware, stain glass, space, smell and silence all influence us and can assist us in making our minds and spirits more open to God.
Increasingly Cathedrals are finding courage to place art into their buildings. This is not without its challenges but provide them with the opportunity to engage people who would not normally go to cathedral, to use art to look differently at God and to challenge us by being prophetic .
While I was at Salisbury Cathedral Helaine Blumenfeld placed a number of her pieces in the Cathedral Close and within the Cathedral itself. Through the “Messenger of the Spirit” exhibition Helaine Blumenfeld sought to communicate from that place when words fail through the visual, imaginative, tactile and at an emotional level.
In a world which is filled with what Josef Piefer (Only the lover sings: Art and Contemplation Ignatius Press 1990) calls “Visual Noise” we find ourselves bombarded by images and information and in a society which demand us to keep moving we so often fail to abide and find a place to reflect on things of beauty and the sacred. The “Messenger of the Spirit” exhibition provided people with a motivation to stop and abide.
“The Messenger of the Spirit” was inspired by the nature of Angels as being messengers of God. Angels appear in most religions and faiths and they seem to connect with those of no faith. Angels give us a way of expressing our longings for beings that are more powerful than ourselves. They help us understand our place in the world, our relationship with other people and with God. Within the narrative of Christian scripture Angels appear when the human mind struggles to comprehend. The narrative of the messenger is coherent to narrative of the Cathedral and the Christian faith. The light, space and architecture of the Cathedral worked in partnership with the flowing textures and smooth lines of the sculpture to create a wonderful sense of light and life giving a message of creation, healing and hope.
It was an exhibition which was well received but they are not always so straight forward.
Truro Cathedral become home this summer to an installation by Imran Qureshi. It was a project in partnership with the Newlyn Gallery.
After which, I am no more I, and you are no more you is made up of 30,000 pieces of paper. Each sheet has a picture of a garden and when scrunched up they represent destruction but then find themselves reshaped into a wonderful landscape. Imran reminds us that hope can be found in places of destruction.
A few people complained that it looked like a pile of rubbish (which it did) but up close you see that it is made up of individual pieces of paper – each one containing a picture of a garden reminding us that it is only when we get close to people that we understand them and appreciate them as individuals. It was a brave piece to exhibit and is exactly the type Cathedrals should be displaying.
Cathedrals need to be places that not only speak of God but speak out on behalf of God as prophets and art helps them to do this.