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Throughout its history, art in St Paul's Cathedral has inspired and illuminated the Christian faith for those who visit, and provided a focus for reflection, meditation and contemplation.
St Paul’s Cathedral is home to a spectacular array of art; from the delicate carvings of Grinling Gibbons in the quire to Sir James Thornhill's dome murals, as well as the Victorian mosaics and Henry Moore's Mother and Child: Hood. The St Paul's Cathedral Visual Arts Programme seeks to explore the encounter between art and faith, offering a powerful and challenging context with which artists can engage. In recent times, a series of interventions by artists including Rebecca Horn, Yoko Ono, Antony Gormley and Bill Viola have further enriched the daily pattern of worship in the Cathedral.
Sorry, Sorry Sarajevo - Nicola Hicks (October 2013 - 2014)
A life size bronze sculpture of a man holding another man, dead or badly injured, in his arms, was placed in the Cathedral in October 2013. Created by acclaimed artist, Nicola Hicks, the work was made in 1993, at the height of the Bosnian War, since when it has serve as a reminder that brutal warfare has continued to rage around the world. The sculpture is situated at the east of the Cathedral in the Dean’s Aisle, directly opposite Henry Moore’s 1983 sculpture, Mother and Child: Hood. This juxtaposition will allow people to reflect both on the beauty of birth and relationships, and on the horror of war, murder and bereavement – an important exercise with added poignancy as we approach the centenary of the outbreak of World War One.
The Reverend Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor of St Paul’s said: "The First World War claimed the lives of 16 million people and was described as ‘the war to end all war’. However, human conflict did not stop and within Europe as recently as the 1990s, the Bosnian War saw around 100,000 people killed, up to 50,000 women raped and over two million people displaced. "Nicola Hicks’ sculpture is a powerful and affecting study of the true grief of war. It is a military, but also piercingly human, pieta. The universality of the work reminds us that such militarised violence and death are still part of our world, and that history will always record the peacemakers and reconcilers, working to end the carnage, as the blessed ones.”
Perspectives - John Pawson (September 2011 - January 2012)
As part of the Cathedral's tercentenary celebrations, the London Design Festival invited John Pawson to present a remarkable installation which referenced Sir Christopher Wren's desire that his buildings should have a scientific purpose. The installation, entitled Perspectives, designed in collaboration with Swarovski Crystal Palace, was located within the Geometric Staircase.There was a good precedent for this idea of using the architecture as an optical instrument, since Sir Christopher Wren used a similar chamber in The Monument as an observatory.
The intention was to turn this extraordinary spatial volume into its own viewing device. The installation was a concave Swarovski crystal meniscus - the largest commissionable lens – which was located at the bottom of the stairwell. This lens sat on a much larger reflective surface - the upper plane of a specially fabricated metal hemisphere (1,200mm in diameter and 675mm in height). A 2m wide spherical convex mirror was suspended in the tower's cupola, directly over the hemisphere. Acting in concert, these optical devices resulted in a composite image of the view up through the tower and an elevated downward perspective appearing to visitors gathered round the hemisphere.
Remembrance Day Poppy Installation - Ted Harrison (November 2011)
Over 5,000 poppies were scattered under the dome of St Paul’s in an art installation on Remembrance Day. From ground level the poppies appear to have fallen randomly, but when viewed from the Whispering Gallery the poppies form an image of three child soldiers; one from the First World War and two from more recent conflicts. The 30 foot wide installation created by artist Ted Harrison highlighted the involvement of children in war.
St Paul's chose two new works by the British artist Mark Alexander to be hung either side of the nave in summer 2010. Both entitled Red Mannheim, Alexander's large red silkscreens were inspired by the Mannheim Cathedral altarpiece (1739-41), which was damaged by bombing in the Second World War. The original sculpture depicts Christ on the cross, surrounded by a familiar retinue of mourners. Rendered in splendid giltwood, with Christ's wracked body sculpted in relief, and the flourishes of flora and incandescent rays from heaven, this masterpiece of the German Rococo is an object of ravishing beauty and intense piety.
'Being Untouchable' –Marcus Perkins (June - July 2011)
An exhibition of photography, presenting rare and intimate portraits of the lives of Indian Dalits, or ‘untouchables’, for the charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide, was shown in the North Quire Aisle.
Flare II - Anthony Gormley (February - November 2010)
This dramatic sculpture by Antony Gormley, was installed in the Geometric Staircase in April 2010. The artist said of the installation: ‘Wren understood proportion, space and gravitational dynamics as no other British architect of his time and the Geometric Staircase is a supreme and elegant outcome of this understanding. "Flare II" is my attempt to use applied geometry to construct an energy field describing a human space in space. I am delighted to have the opportunity to show this work in such a brilliant and relevant context.’
The Question mark Inside - Martin Firrell (November 2008)
What makes your life worth living? The artist Martin Firell posed that question as part of an art work to celebrate the three hundredth anniversary of the Cathedral. The public were invited to submit their response to the conundrum via the Cathedral’s website, and the artist interviewed leading thinkers for their opinions and contributed ideas of his own. The results of the survey were projected onto the exterior of the Cathedral dome and made visible across London for one week in November 2009. The probing question drew punchy answers; some were funny, some profound, some were commonplace and some politically challenging. All were beamed in giant letters on a blue background, creating a dome-shaped beacon for the hopes, fears and values of contemporary Londoners from all walks of life.
Morning Beams / River of Life / Wish Tree - Yoko Ono (2006)
St Paul’s Cathedral is an exceptionally light building; clear windows and reflective walls create a noticeably bright interior. The building is also home to a famous painting which takes metaphorical and literal light as its theme, The Light of the World by William Holman Hunt, which depicts Christ (The Light of the World) holding a glowing lantern. Playing with the idea of a physical body symbolizing light Yoko Ono installed an engaging installation using many ropes attached to the Cathedral architecture to create the illusion of shafts of light emanating from a natural source. Visitors were encouraged to explore between "the beams” and interact with the artwork which introduced a playful and intriguing element to an otherwise grand and rather solemn piece of architecture. The art work was curated by ACE as part of the Festival of London which ran from 26 June – 13 July 2006.
The Nativity, The Public Ministry, The Crucifixion, Resurrection – Sergei Chepik (2005 - 2007)
2005 saw the installation of four monumental paintings by Sergei Chepik, designed for the pillars to left and right of the Nave. Panel 1: Nativity, Virgin and Child. Panel II: The Public Ministry, The Baptism. Panel III: The Crucifixion, The Judgement. Panel IV: The Resurrection. The commission was undertaken in partnership with the Catto Gallery.
The Dean, Dr John Moses, said: 'The Christ who confronts us in the gospels is a prophetic figure. He is uncomfortably compelling. He speaks of the breaking in of God's Kingdom and challenges the bland complacencies of all who will listen. It seems to me that Sergei Chepik has captured in a stark and powerful fashion the Christ whom I find in the Gospels; and it may be that in our tormented world it is exactly this presentation of the person of Our Lord which is able to speak to hearts and minds.'
Moon Mirror – Rebecca Horn (2005)
A mixed-media sculpture installed in the west end of the cathedral, was shown as an extension of the Hayward Gallery’s retrospective for German artist, Rebacca Horn. The piece consisted of a revolving mirror, set inside a static one, creating the illusion of gazing deep into a well. Looking up, the viewer sees a moon, with fires flaring on its surface, suspended from the cathedral's ceiling. The whole is accompanied by Rebecca Horn’s poem, arranged for choral performance by composer Hayden Chisholm. This project was also part of the City of London Festival’s exhibition, Insight: six artists in six City churches. The two exhibitions were curated by Meryl Doney and Paul Bayley.