I arrived at the fourth destination on my journey soaked through and well and truly 'nithered', as we say in Yorkshire, having struggled to push through the biting wind, rain water dripping down my neck and a very wet and muddy pathway, but I am so glad that I did continue. The chapel at Snape Castle and the stunning installation by Jonathan Gabb were my favourites in the entire trail.
The name Snape comes from an old Norse word for a boggy tract of uncultivated land, and whilst only the chapel is open to the public, the track through the grounds clearly shows that the castle, first built in the mid thirteenth century, has no stone foundations, but rests upon oak piles that were driven into the marshy ground. Passed through the Neville family line until the eighteenth century, perhaps one of its most famous residents was Catherine Parr who was married to John Neville until his death in 1543, the same year she went on to marry Henry V111. Catherine is known to have spent long hours in the chapel there.
The chapel, still used for regular worship, part of the Masham parish, and with a faithful congregation, is reached via an elegant staircase, and the only concession to modernity is the addition of low voltage electric lighting; other than this, it is preserved in its original state. I physically tingled as I stepped over the threshold and back into history. The woodwork carving and stained glass are stunning, and looking upwards the painted ceiling created by the Italian artist Antonio Verrio (1636 - 1707), who also worked on the ceilings at Burghley House for the Cecil family, must have been glorious when first worked. The ceiling fresco was damaged when the chapel was used for a brief moment in its 18th century history to store grain and straw, but the egg tempura ochres, rich brick reds and lazuline blues still shine like jewels, and it is this feature of the chapel that Jonathan Gabb chose to work with in his installation, 'Wonder And War In Heaven'. Gabb's work draws out the spirit and drama in Verrio's work, referencing the vibrant colours of the fresco by creating a third ceiling (the first is the original chapel ceiling and the second is the ceiling made to contain Verrio's painting) of knotted cords and an interwoven canopy of threads that draw the eye to the original, but also provide something new and contemporary in the space. It is a reaching out; an acknowledgement and honouring of the history and faithfulness of those who have found fellowship there, but also connecting them to the present, making intrinsic links with a faith that has endured.
I lay down in the nave of the aisle to appreciate the synthesis between the old and the new, and I was deeply moved. I adore exquisite, old architectural features and it breaks my heart to see churches tearing them out believing that they can't move on without them, instead of imaginatively incorporating these treasures into their plans for the future; Gadd's work symbolically showed the value in holding the two in harmony. That is this artist's gift; to meld sculpture, painting and the built environment, his process allowing the work to inhabit a space, its architecture forming its outcome.
The title for his piece comes from a reference in Revelation 12:9 which relays the story of the dragon being cast out of heaven, and with both colour and form this also comes to live in this place. It is celebratory, a dance of continuance that embraces and enfolds all who come - whether traditionalist, contemporist or a sprinkling of both - in a kaleidoscope of ever-changing colour.
Apart from the sheer beauty of the piece and its effect on my emotions, I spent some time looking at Gadd's working practice - i.e, how he had installed the work without compromising the structure of the building in any way whatsoever, It was quite a feat of engineering, and I learned so much about the possibilities that are there, simply by studying his methodologies. I stayed far longer here than in any of the other places, was completely mesmerised by it and left with a head full of presence and ideas. Collecting my postcard on the way out, I switched off the lights just as the afternoon sun was at its highest and a prismic shaft of light filtered through the stained glass, scattering the colours in a beautiful rainbow that over-arched the altar. It seemed fitting.
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.