Aerende is an old English word from which our modern 'errand' is derived. It essentially means 'to go on a mission or a journey to complete a task or discover an answer. It has a sense of pilgrimage about it, and it was this essence that I found running through the Art in Churches presentation, Sculpt, a circular route of seven churches to walk between, each containing an installation, with a postcard to pick up at each one to mark the progress through the journey.
I chose to begin my task of completing the circuit at North Stainley, a picturesque village in the Harrogate district of North Yorkshire, arriving right in the middle of the UCI Road World Championships, an event which the whole district had embraced in some stunning displays of art and celebratory support. The pupils of the tiny school next door to the church had all designed their own cycling jerseys in the UCI colours which festooned the railings, the village bus stop had been decked in coloured spots, the zebra crossing yarn bombed in appropriate stripes and the church gates held the image of a jersey cleverly woven through the wrought iron work. There was a real sense of carnival wherever I looked.
The church of St Mary the Virgin is a beautiful building, overflowing with unusual stained glass, glorious furnishings, art work that shows its historic links with Ripon Cathedral, a fascinating churchyard with some very magnificent memorials and a setting that is sanctuary to both wildlife and human, but this peaceful haven also obviously has a tremendous amount going on and is one of the lively hubs of village life. It seemed overwhelmingly 'right' that this church should be chosen to house Sarah Williams' piece, 'Every Small Difference'.
Williams is the daughter of Reg Williams, one of the York Four, her career path determined early and having her first public exhibition at age eight. In more recent years, she has brought her skills to bear on Interior Design, Architectural Design, Furniture Design and Jewellery making, before returning to painting full-time, describing oil paint, her natural medium, as "the smell, the texture, the depth and colour of pigments, total nectar".
'Every Small Difference' takes the form of a tryptych, representing the Trinity of the Christian faith, twelve bubbles - one for each of the twelve disciples - and three mirrored orbs which fracture the triune panels relaying a sense of both the viewer and the institution having become distorted and separated from each other. An overarching rainbow is fading and incomplete.
The conversation the artist wants to pursue is that of the vulnerability of the planet in an ongoing war with climate change, and our responsibility as individuals to protect it, but also our own vulnerabilities of finding place and spirituality. The bubbles are fragile and can be popped at any time, be they those that represent the delicacy of the eco-system or those that arise from our own sensitivities when circumstances overwhelm us. Williams suggests that the church is a place where traditionally people found sanctuary in times of crisis, war and poverty, and that, as the upheaval of climate change and other world crises make their impact there is an opportunity for church to take up that role again, but for that to realistically happen a programme of small differences needs to be instigated to repair damage and rebuild trust, in much the same way as rebuilding a planet takes the efforts of individuals and collectives to do their bit making small differences to influence the whole ecological debate. It is a complex duality of thought processes, and for me it felt too contrived and didn't quite hold together, but 'Every Small Difference' is a very peaceful art work, it sat well in the quiet oasis that is North Stainley, and I was pleased that I'd seen it.
Having collected my postcard, my journey then took me to West Tanfield...
This part of my site isn't about me at all.
It is about watching, observing and reading the work of others. Those who know what they are about, who have honed their crafts over many years and for whom I have the greatest respect and admiration.
I have learned, and continue to learn, so much from each show watched, each book read, each art work discovered and each person encountered, and I am humbled by their generosity of spirit in giving so much.