What in Heaven’s name are we here for?

Yesterday I attended a service at St Nicholas’, and it was a challenge! I went by myself and the service lasted nearly 2 hours. In the hymn book was a post it note with the question, “what in Heaven’s name are we here for?” This question was discussed by the vicar during the service. The service included Holy communion with the taking of bread and wine. I have not been to Church for a long time. I found the experience thought provoking and at the end of the service spoke with the vicar and church wardens about my ideas. They were enthusiastic and welcoming.
I discussed my theme of water with the vicar who gave me some areas of the Bible to look at.
The whole experience was positive but testing to.
I felt throughout the service awkward and very alone. The hymn book and programme gave me something to hold and look at. We were also given a book mark with the same question.
” What in Heavens name are we here for?”
The Church building itself had many interesting spaces and I spent a lot of time looking and taking in the possibilities for displaying work. What do I want to achieve from this?
This morning I had my tutorial with Les Bicknell, this helped to consolidate some of my thinking. I want to make sure I incorporate the audience with my work and was interested in the use of the hymn books. Perhaps I could insert bookmarks at the service with biblical and non biblical quotes on water? I have recorded sayings in relation to water in my sketchbook, such as ” keeping your head above water.”
The vicar has invited me to attend a baptism in October to give me more insight into the ritual.
After my tutorial I went to a lock in Henley as I wanted to photograph more running water.
I spent this evening drawing water focusing on it’s flow and shapes.


Contemporary Art in Briti Churches

Today I taught in a Catholic Church school where I taught the creation story to year 1. The school is based around worshiping Jesus and children pray in the morning at lunch and at the end of the day. At lunch they stood behind their tables with hands in prayer before eating. A very different experience for me as a teacher.

I have started to read a book ” Contemporary Art in British Churches”  Edited by Laura Moffatt and Eileen Daly. It is giving me an insight into past work in religious settings. imageAntony Gormley’s partially submerged figure Sound 11, 1986

in the flooded vaults of Winchester Cathedral.image imageRose Finnkelcey’s It Pays To Pray, 1999, vending machiimage imagenes

were installed at the Millenium Dome. Non- denominational prayers were produced and your 20p coin was transformed and returned to you a sparkling metallic blue.

Mark Wallinger’s Eccentric Homo 1999, sited on the fourth plinth of Trafalgar Square .

Why is water so central to Christian religious life?

I have once again been unable to meet with other members of the group so am relying on Facebook as a means of seeing what others are proposing for this task.

I had some good news as the Reverend of the church has agreed to me showing my work which gives me a definite space to show my work.

I am still pursuing water as a theme and have been researching the symbolism and relevance to Christianity. I have also been to Virgina Water to photograph the waterfall there. I am interested in flowing, moving water in particular.

Water in Christianity is primarily associated with baptism. At the same time it contains a great number of symbols, for example: destruction, death and burial, life, purification, cleansing, healing, blessing, sanctification, baptism, the presence of the Holy Spirit, divine grace, redemption and salvation.

In baptism water symbolises death, and receives the body like a tomb. Thus water prepares a person for the spirit. This belief is associated with the idea of the duality of human essence consisting of two natures, spiritual ( soul) and corporeal ( body). Water purifies the body, and the spirit cleanses the soul, thus accomplishing rebirth from above and illumination of the whole human being.image image image

Martyrs Bill Viola & Zigzag Francesca Woodman

Martyrs is placed at the east end of the Dean’s aisle and is configured in a manner similar to historical altarpieces.

In Viola’s work we see martyrdom as something we would be willing to die for, alone, and as a sacrifice for our faith, conscience or other people. Martyr is a Greek word meaning witness. The very east end of the Cathedral , where the work is placed used to hold an altar dedicated to martyrs.

” For me the rumour of God is very loud in the work, as enigmatic as it is profound, and I have no doubt the work will be a spiritual encouragement to those who spend time with it.”

Commentary on Martyrs: The Reverend Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s Cathedralimage

This this exhibition worked well in the Cathedral and people took time to watch the 7 minutes from start to finish. It slows down our thinking and is accessible to all faiths. Fragility and strength are shown in all four individuals facing different natural forces.

Francesca Woodman Zigzag

This exhibition considers the zigzag and other abstract geometrical forms as recurring visual themes in Woodman’s work.

I chose to visit this exhibition as I am fascinated by the way Woodman manages to blend the human body into it’s surroundings. I also love her photographs of shapes of light, often zig zags.image


I am starting to experiment with different materials that capture light. Today I used liquid sculpey which acts as a transfer material when baked in the oven, the end result is like transparent soft plastic. I have also come across the artist Peter Alexander’s resin sculptures which work with light,space, colour and shape. His work is very simple and understated but still evokes feeling.

I would like to experiment with resin as I have used it before to coat a canvas, my thought go to perhaps covering watercolour studies in resin or again witimageh the liquid sculpey.

image image

Light and space

Today I attempted to google hangout with the others in my group but had no sound which was disappointing. Next week we are meeting again so am hoping I will be successful.

My art work has been focusing on the light retractions on water, looking at the unusual shapes and forms that are created. I am going to widen my looking to light forms on walls, floors and more internal spaces around the house. I am interested in the photographic work of Francesca Woodman and have noticed that there is an exhibition of her photographs called Zigzag at Victoria Miro Mayfair, London. This exhibition considers the zigzag and other geometrical forms, which Woodman looks at using photography.

I would also like to see Martyrs (Earth, Air, Fire, Water) at St Paul’s Cathedral by Bill Viola. A large video work which looks at martyrdom in terms of what we would be willing to die for, alone, and as a sacrifice four faith, conscience or other people.

Martyr is a Greek word meaning ‘witness’.

Today I took some photographs of light patterns on the wall inside my home. This was at the end of the day and I feel I may want to explore these further.image image image


imageimageThere was one window at St Nicholas’ Church that was illuminated. I am very interested in the concept of boundaries between inside and outside in my work.

I was drawn to this window because it was the only one which allowed me to see inside the church. Through this very old and dark window I could see that the church had stonework that was quite ornate and painted with gold leaf.


1a the act of illuminating   B. The state of being illuminated

2 A source of light

3 Decorative lighting

4 Spiritual or intellectual clarity

5 Clarification, elucidation

6a The art of decorating a text or page, or initial letter with ornamental designs, miniatures or lettering

7 Physics The luminous, flux per unit at any point on a surface exposed to incident light.


Today I have been thinking about ritual and how in religion ritual is a means of both internalising belief and making it real and individual.

What is the structure of a given ritual? What is it’s function? What ambiguities do they have and how may they contradict?

Gregory Bateson (1958) argues that changes in rituals often serve as a means of averting real change. Questions have been made about the multivalence of meaning in ritual contexts (Derrida, 1978), the ways in which ritual form resist interpretation ( de Man 1979) , and the ways in which patterns are inherent to the viewer and bring forth particular forms of reaction ( Jameson 1981).

Another important issue is the way in which power is constructed  and manipulated through ritual. In Christianity we are asked to believe in the virginity of Jesus’ mother, but also in his divine birth, sacrosanct death, and eventual resurrection.

When something is a ritual it is often an ordinary object or action but our awareness of it is heightened through the ritual. Sometimes they heighten the differences between the “ordinary” and the “strange”.

” The rituals of religion, like the rituals of etiquette- whether speaking to houses or standing for strangers- require at once a certain faith and an acknowledgement that things are important are not always rational or understandable.”

Critical Terms For Art History “Ritual”

The production of art can in some senses be a ritual to the artist. One which is not always understood.

I have contacted the vicar at St Nicholas Church and he is going to get back to me regarding the showing of my work.

I have been painting from photographs of water and know that I would like to capture fluidity and flow. Time seems to be going quickly and my ideas are still not concrete. I hope to find out at the beginning of the week whether I can show work at St Nicholas’ then I will feel more able to develop my ideas.


I have begun to think about the significance of certain symbols in religion. Water has a central place in the belief of religion; mainly for it’s purifying qualities. Almost all Christian churches have rituals involving the use of water.

The use of water is important for it’s symbolic value in that it cleanses and washes away dirt and fills everything it enters. In the early church baptism was usually performed with the person standing in water being poured over the upper part of the body. This was called ‘immersion’, but today the term refers to the method of dipping the whole body under water. In most western churches today the rite is performed by pouring water over the head three times( affusion) and sometimes sprinkling water over the head ( aspersions.)

For my work I have photographed different bodies of water ( lakes, sea, swimming pools) as I am interested in the qualities of flow and movement. Today I began a large watercolour study of water attempting to capture this sense of flow and movement.

“He looked at the water and saw that it was made up of a thousand thousand thousand and one different currents, each one a different colour, weaving in and out of one another like a liquid tapestry of breathtaking complexity.”

Salman Rushdie, Haroun and the sea of stories, 1990image image image


For the work I will produce for Testing Boundaries , I would like to create a sense of translucency through my use of materials.



image image1. Allowing light to pass through partially or diffusely; semitransparent

word origin

From Latin translucere to shine through, from trans + lucere to shine

“The illusion of transparency. Here space appears as luminous, as intelligible, as giving action free rein. What happens in space lends a miraculous quality to thought, which becomes incarnate by means of a design [in both senses of the world.] The design serves as a mediator – itself of great fidelity – between mental activity.

The illusion of transparency goes hand in hand with a view of space as innocent, as free of traps or secret places.”

The Production of Space  Henri Lefebvre

I would like to create a free flow between inside and outside in my work and through choosing the location of my work I hope to emphasise these thoughts. I am aware that the Church possesses complex symbolism and therefore am researching how other artists have worked within a religious space.